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•  •-.  •• . 

•  BOSTON  • 

In  Memory  of 
Dr.  William  H.  Sheldon 

The  Gift  of 
His  Associates 


AWElson  &  CoJBoston. 



(  ,' 



Hotter^  ann 





Copyright,  1889, 
BY  J.  S.  P.  ALCOTT. 



MRS.    ANNA    B.    PRATT, 







June,  1889. 


LOUISA  MAY  ALCOTT  is  universally  recog- 
nized as  the  greatest  and  most  popular 
story-teller  for  children  in  her  generation.  She 
has  known  the  way  to  the  hearts  of  young  people, 
not  only  in  her  own  class,  or  even  country,  but  in 
every  condition  of  life,  and  in  many  foreign  lands. 
Plato  says,  "  Beware  of  those  who  teach  fables  to 
children;  "  and  it  is  impossible  to  estimate  the  in- 
fluence which  the  popular  writer  of  fiction  has 
over  the  audience  he  wins  to  listen  to  his  tales. 
The  preacher,  the  teacher,  the  didactic  writer  find 
their  audience  in  hours  of  strength,  with  critical 
faculties  all  alive,  to  question  their  propositions  and 
refute  their  arguments.  The  novelist  comes  to  us 
in  the  intervals  of  recreation  and  relaxation,  and  by 
his  seductive  powers  of  imagination  and  sentiment 
takes  possession  of  the  fancy  and  the  heart  before 
judgment  and  reason  are  aroused  to  defend  the 
citadel.  It  well  becomes  us,  then,  who  would 

iv  Introduction. 

guard  young  minds  from  subtle  temptations,  to 
study  the  character  of  those  works  which  charm 
and  delight  the  children. 

Of  no  author  can  it  be  more  truly  said  than 
of  Louisa  Alcott  that  her  works  are  a  revelation 
of  herself.  She  rarely  sought  for  the  material  of 
her  stories  in  old  chronicles,  or  foreign  adven- 
tures. Her  capital  was  her  own  life  and  experi- 
ences and  those  of  others  directly  about  her ;  and 
her  own  well-remembered  girlish  frolics  and  fan- 
cies were  sure  to  find  responsive  enjoyment  in  the 
minds  of  other  girls. 

It  is  therefore  impossible  to  understand  Miss 
Alcott's  works  fully  without  a  knowledge  of  her 
own  life  and  experiences.  By  inheritance  and 
education  she  had  rich  and  peculiar  gifts ;  and  her 
life  was  one  of  rare  advantages,  as  well  as  of  trying 
difficulties.  Herself  of  the  most  true  and  frank 
nature,  she  has  given  us  the  opportunity  of  know- 
ing her  without  disguise;  and  it  is  thus  that  I  shall 
try  to  portray  her,  showing  what  influences  acted 
upon  her  through  life,  and  how  faithfully  and  fully 
she  performed  whatever  duties  circumstances  laid 
upon  her.  Fortunately  I  can  let  her  speak  mainly 
for  herself. 

Miss  Alcott  revised  her  journals  at  different  times 
during  her  later  life,  striking  out  what  was  too  per- 
sonal for  other  eyes  than  her  own,  and  destroying 
a  great  deal  which  would  doubtless  have  proved 
very  interesting. 

Introduction.  v 

The  small  number  of  letters  given  will  undoubt- 
edly be  a  disappointment.  Miss  Alcott  wished  to 
have  most  of  her  letters  destroyed,  and  her  sister 
respected  her  wishes.  She  was  not  a  voluminous 
correspondent;  she  did  not  encourage  many  in- 
timacies, and  she  seldom  wrote  letters  except  to 
her  family,  unless  in  reference  to  some  purpose 
she  had  strongly  at  heart.  Writing  was  her  con- 
stant occupation,  and  she  was  not  tempted  to  in- 
dulge in  it  as  a  recreation.  Her  letters  are  brief, 
and  strictly  to  the  point,  but  always  characteristic 
in  feeling  and  expression ;  and,  even  at  the  risk  of 
the  repetition  of  matter  contained  in  her  journals 
or  her  books,  I  shall  give  copious  extracts  from 
such  as  have  come  into  my  hands. 


E.  D.  C. 
JAMAICA  PLAIN,  Mass.,  1889. 






II.    CHILDHOOD  .     .    .     .    . 16 






VIII.     EUROPE,  AND  "LITTLE  WOMEN'    ....  170 

IX.     EUROPE 204 


XI.     LAST  YEARS 329 




PORTRAIT  OF  Miss  ALCOTT Frontispiece 

Photogravure  by  A.  W.  Elson  &  Co  ,  from  a  photograph  by 
Notman  (negative  destroyed),  taken  in  1883.  The  fac- 
simile of  her  writing  is  an  extract  from  a  letter  to  her 
publisher,  written  from  her  hospital  retreat  a  few  weeks 
previous  to  her  death. 

1878 93 

Engraved  by  John  Andrew  &  Son  Co.,  from  a  photograph. 


Photogravure  by  A.  W.  Elson  &  Co.,  from  a  photograph 
taken  just  previous  to  her  going  to  Washington  as  a  hospi- 
tal nurse,  in  1862. 

FAC-SIMILE  OF  Miss  ALCOTT'S  WRITING     ....     362 

Extract  from  a  letter  to  her  publisher,  January,  1886. 







WHEN  I  remember  with  what  buoyant  heart, 

Midst  war's  alarms  and  woes  of  civil  strife, 
In  youthful  eagerness  thou  didst  depart, 

At  peril  of  thy  safety,  peace,  and  life, 
To  nurse  the  wounded  soldier,  swathe  the  dead,  — 

How  pierced  soon  by  fever's  poisoned  dart, 
And  brought  unconscious  home,  with  wildered  head, 

Thou  ever  since  'mid  langour  and  dull  pain, 
To  conquer  fortune,  cherish  kindred  dear, 

Hast  with  grave  studies  vexed  a  sprightly  brain, 
In  myriad  households  kindled  love  and  cheer, 

Ne'er  from  thyself  by  Fame's  loud  trump  beguiled, 
Sounding  in  this  and  the  farther  hemisphere,  — 

I  press  thee  to  my  heart  as  Duty's  faithful  child. 

T  OUISA  ALCOTT  was  the  second  child  of 
1— /  Amos  Bronson  and  Abba  May  Alcott.  This 
name  was  spelled  Alcocke  in  English  history. 
About  1616  a  coat-of-arms  was  granted  to  Thomas 
Alcocke  of  Silbertoft,  in  the  county  of  Leicester. 
The  device  represents  three  cocks,  emblematic  of 
watchfulness ;  and  the  motto  is  Semper  Vigilans. 

12  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

The  first  of  the  name  appearing  in  English  his- 
tory is  John  Alcocke  of  Beverley,  Yorkshire,  of 
whom  Fuller  gives  an  account  in  his  Worthies 
of  England. 

Thomas  and  George  Alcocke  were  the  first  of 
the  name  among  the  settlers  in  New  England. 
The  name  is  frequently  found  in  the  records  of 
Dorchester  and  Roxbury,  and  has  passed  through 
successive  changes  to  its  present  form. 

The  name  of  Bronson  came  from  Mr.  Alcott's 
maternal  grandfather,  the  sturdy  Capt.  Amos  Bron- 
son of  Plymouth,  Conn.  "  His  ancestors  on  both 
sides  had  been  substantial  people  of  respectable 
position  in  England,  and  were  connected  with  the 
founders  and  governors  of  the  chief  New  England 
colonies.  At  the  time  of  Mr.  Alcott's  birth  they 
had  become  simple  farmers,  reaping  a  scanty  living 
from  their  small  farms  in  Connecticut." 

Amos  Bronson  Alcott,  the  father  of  Louisa,  was 
born  Nov.  29,  1799,  at  the  foot  of  Spindle  Hill,  in 
the  region  called  New  Connecticut.  He  has  him- 
self given  in  simple  verse  the  story  of  his  quaint 
rustic  life  in  his  boyhood,  and  Louisa  has  repro- 
duced it  in  her  story  of  "  Eli's  Education  "  (in  the 
Spinning-Wheel  Stories),  which  gives  a  very  true 
account  of  his  youthful  life  and  adventures.  He 
derived  his  refined,  gentle  nature  from  his  mother, 
who  had  faith  in  her  son,  and  who  lived  to  see  him 
the  accomplished  scholar  he  had  vowed  to  become 
in  his  boyhood.  Although  brought  up  in  these 
rustic  surroundings,  his  manners  were  always  those 
of  a  true  gentleman.  The  name  of  the  little  moun- 
tain town  afterward  became  Wolcott,  and  Louisa 

Genealogy  and  Parentage.  13 

records  in  her  journal  a  pilgrimage  made  thither  in 
after  years.1 

Louisa  Alcott's  mother  was  a  daughter  of  Col. 
Joseph  May  of  Boston.  This  Tamily  is  so  well 
known  that  it  is  hardly  necessary  to  repeat  its 
genealogy  here.2  She  was  a  sister  of  Samuel  J. 
May,  for  many  years  pastor  of  the  Unitarian  church 
at  Syracuse,  who  was  so  tenderly  beloved  by  men 
of  all  religious  persuasions  in  his  home,  and  so 
widely  known  and  respected  for  his  courage  and 
zeal  in  the  Antislavery  cause,  as  well  as  for  his 
many  philanthropic  labors. 

Mrs.  Alcott's  mother  was  Dorothy  Sewall,  a  de- 
scendant of  that  family  already  distinguished  in  the 
annals  of  the  Massachusetts  colony,  and  which  has 
lost  nothing  of  its  reputation  for  ability  and  virtue 
in  its  latest  representatives.3 

Mrs.  Alcott  inherited  in  large  measure  the  traits 
which  distinguished  her  family.  She  was  a  woman 
of  large  stature,  fine  physique,  and  overflowing  life. 
Her  temper  was  as  quick  and  warm  as  her  affec- 
tions, but  she  was  full  of  broad  unselfish  generosity. 
Her  untiring  energies  were  constantly  employed, 
not  only  for  the  benefit  of  her  family,  but  for  all 

1  For  further  particulars  of  the   Alcott  genealogy,   see  "New 
Connecticut,"  a  poem  by  A.  B.  Alcott,  published  in  1887.     I  am 
also  indebted  to  Mr.  F.  B.  Sanborn's  valuable  paper  read  at  the 
memorial  service  at  Concord  in  1888. 

2  For  particulars   of   the   genealogy  of  the    May  families,  see 
"  A  Genealogy  of  the  Descendants  of  John  May,"  who  came  from 
England  to  Roxbury  in  America,  1640. 

3  For  the  Sewall  family,  see  "  Drake's  History  of  Boston,"  or 
fuller  accounts  in  the  Sewall  Papers  published  by  the  Massachu- 
setts-Historical Society. 

14  Louisa  May  Alcott. 


around  her.  She  had  a  fine  mind,  and  if  she  did 
not  have  large  opportunities  for  scholastic  instruc- 
tion, she  always  enjoyed  the  benefit  of  intellectual 
society  and  converse  with  noble  minds.  She  loved 
expression  in  writing,  and  her  letters  are  full  of  wit 
and  humor,  keen  criticism,  and  noble  moral  senti- 
ments. Marriage  with  an  idealist,  who  had  no 
means  of  support,  brought  her  many  trials  and  pri- 
vations. She  bore  them  heroically,  never  wavering 
in  affection  for  her  husband  or  in  devotion  to  her 
children.  If  the  quick,  impatient  temper  some- 
times relieved  itself  in  hasty  speech,  the  action  was 
always  large  and  unselfish. 

It  will  be  apparent  from  Louisa's  life  that  she 
inherited  the  traits  of  both  her  parents,  and  that 
the  uncommon  powers  of  mind  and  heart  that  dis- 
tinguished her  were  not  accidental,  but  the  accu- 
mulated result  of  the  lives  of  generations  of  strong 
and  noble  men  and  women. 

She  was  well  born. 

Mr.  Alcott  to  Colonel  May. 

GERMANTOWN,  Nov.  29,  1832. 

DEAR  SIR,  -  -  It  is  with  great  pleasure  that  I  announce 
to  you  the  birth  of  a  second  daughter.  She  was  born  at 
half-past  12  this  morning,  on  my  birthday  (33),  and  is 
a  very  fine  healthful  child,  much  more  so  than  Anna  was 
at  birth,  —  has  a  fine  foundation  for  health  and  energy  of 
character.  Abba  is  very  comfortable,  and  will  soon  be 
restored  to  the  discharge  of  those  domestic  and  maternal 
duties  in  which  she  takes  so  much  delight,  and  in  the 
performance  of  which  she  furnishes  so  excellent  a  model 

Genealogy  and  Parentage.  15 

for  imitation.  Those  only  who  have  seen  her  in  those 
relations,  much  as  there  is  in  her  general  character  to 
admire  and  esteem,  can  form  a  true  estimate  of  her  per- 
sonal worth  and  uncommon  devotion  of  heart.  She  was 
formed  for  domestic  sentiment  rather  than  the  gaze  and 
heartlessness  of  what  is  falsely  called  "  society."  Abba 
inclines  to  call  the  babe  Louisa  May,  —  a  name  to  her 
full  of  every  association  connected  with  amiable  benevo- 
lence and  exalted  worth.  I  hope  its  present  possessor 
may  rise  to  equal  attainment,  and  deserve  a  place  in  the 
estimation  of  society. 

With  Abba's  and  Anna's  and  Louisa's  regards,  allow 
me  to  assure  you  of  the  sincerity  with  which  I  am 



The  children  who  lived  to  maturity  were  — 





WELCOME,  welcome,  little  stranger, 
Fear  no  harm,  and  fear  no  danger ; 
We  are  glad  to  see  you  here, 
For  you  sing  "  Sweet  Spring  is  near." 

Now  the  white  snow  melts  away ; 
Now  the  flowers  blossom  gay  : 
Come  dear  bird  and  build  your  nest, 
For  we  love  our  robin  best. 


MR.  ALCOTT  had  removed  to  Germantown, 
Perm,  to  take  charge  of  a  school,  and  here 
Louisa  was  born,  Nov.  29,  1832.  She  was  the 
second  daughter,  and  was  welcomed  with  the  same 
pride  and  affection  as  her  elder  sister  had  been. 
We  have  this  pleasant  little  glimpse  of  her  when 
she  was  hardly  a  month  old,  from  the  pen  of  one 
of  her  mother's  friends.  Even  at  that  extremely 
early  age  love  saw  the  signs  of  more  than  usual 
intelligence,  and  friends  as  well  as  fond  parents 
looked  forward  to  a  promising  career. 

1  Written  at  eight  years  of  age. 

Childhood.  \  7 

Extract  from  a  Letter  by  Miss  Donaldson. 

GERMANTOWN,  PENN.,  Dec.  16,  1832. 

I  HAVE  a  dear  little  pet  in  Mrs.  Alcott's  little  Louisa. 
It  is  the  prettiest,  best  little  thing  in  the  world.  You 
will  wonder  to  hear  me  call  anything  so  young  pretty, 
but  it  is  really  so  in  an  uncommon  degree ;  it  has  a  fair 
complexion,  dark  bright  eyes,  long  dark  hair,  a  high  fore- 
head, and  altogether  a  countenance  of  more  than  usual 

The  mother  is  such  a  delightful  woman  that  it  is  a 
cordial  to  my  heart  whenever  I  go  to  see  her.  I  went 
in  to  see  her  for  a  few  moments  the  evening  we  received 
your  letter,  and  I  think  I  never  saw  better  spirits ; 
and  truly,  if  goodness  and  integrity  can  insure  felicity, 
she  deserves  to  be  happy. 

The  earliest  anecdote  remembered  of  Louisa  is 
this :  When  the  family  went  from  Philadelphia  to 
Boston  by  steamer,  the  two  little  girls  were  nicely 
dressed  in  clean  nankeen  frocks  for  the  voyage ; 
but  they  had  not  been  long  on  board  before  the 
lively  Louisa  was  missing,  and  after  a  long  search 
she  was  brought  up  from  the  engine-room,  where 
her  eager  curiosity  had  carried  her,  and  where  she 
was  having  a  beautiful  time,  with  "  plenty  of  dirt." 
The  family  removed  to  Boston  in  1834,  and 
Mr.  Alcott  opened  his  famous  school  in  Masonic 
Temple.  Louisa  was  too  young  to  attend  the 
school  except  as  an  occasional  visitor;  but  she 
found  plenty  of  interest  and  amusement  for  her- 
self in  playing  on  the  Common,  making  friends 
with  every  child  she  met,  and  on  one  occasion 


1 8  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

falling  into  the  Frog  Pond.  She  has  given  a  very 
lively  picture  of  this  period  of  her  life  in  "  Poppy's 
Pranks,"  that  vivacious  young  person  being  a  pic- 
ture of  herself,  not  at  all  exaggerated. 

The  family  lived  successively  in  Front  Street, 
Cottage  Place,  and  Beach  Street  during  the  six 
succeeding  years  in  Boston.  They  occasionally 
passed  some  weeks  at  Scituate  during  the  summer, 
which  the  children  heartily  enjoyed. 

Mrs.  Hawthorne  gives  a  little  anecdote  which 
shows  how  the  child's  heart  was  blossoming  in  this 
family  sunshine :  "  One  morning  in  Front  Street, 
at  the  breakfast  table,  Louisa  suddenly  broke 
silence,  with  a-  sunny  smile  saying,  '  I  love  every- 
body in  dis  whole  world.' 

Two  children  were  born  during  this  residence  in 
Boston.  Elizabeth  was  named  for  Mr.  Alcott's  as- 
sistant in  his  school,  —  Miss  E.  P.  Peabody,  since 
so  widely  known  and  beloved  by  all  friends  of  edu- 
cation. A  boy  was  born  only  to  die.  The  little 
body  was  laid  reverently  away  in  the  lot  of  Colonel 
May  in  the  old  burial-ground  on  the  Common,  and 
the  children  were  taught  to  speak  with  tenderness 
of  their  "  baby  brother." 

When  Louisa  was  about  seven  years  old  she 
made  a  visit  to  friends  in  Providence.  Miss  C. 
writes  of  her:  "  She  is  a  beautiful  little  girl  to  look 
upon,  and  I  love  her  affectionate  manners.  I  think 
she  is  more  like  her  mother  than  either  of  the 
others."  As  is  usually  the  case,  Louisa's  journal, 
which  she  began  at  this  early  age,  speaks  more 
fully  of  her  struggles  and  difficulties  than  of  the 
bright,  sunny  moods  which  made  her  attractive.  A 

Childhood.  19 

little  letter  carefully  printed  and  sent  home  during 
this  visit  is  preserved.  In  it  she  says  she  is  not 
happy;  and  she  did  have  one  trying  experience 
there,  to  which  she  refers  in  "  My  Boys."  Seeing 
some  poor  children  who  she  thought  were  hungry, 
she  took  food  from  the  house  without  asking  per- 
mission, and  carried  it  to  them,  and  was  afterward 
very  much  astonished  and  grieved  at  being  repri- 
manded instead  of  praised  for  the  deed.  Miss 
C.  says :  "  She  has  had  several  spells  of  feeling 
sad ;  but  a  walk  or  a  talk  soon  dispels  all  gloom. 
She  was  half  moody  when  she  wrote  her  let- 
ter ;  but  now  she  is  gay  as  a  lark.  She  loves  to 
play  out  of  doors,  and  sometimes  she  is  not  in- 
clined to  stay  in  when  it  is  unpleasant."  In  her 
sketches  of"  My  Boys"  she  describes  two  of  her 
companions  here,  not  forgetting  the  kindness  of 
the  one  and  the  mischievousness  of  the  other. 

Although  the  family  were  quite  comfortable  dur- 
ing the  time  of  Mr.  Alcott's  teaching  in  Boston,  yet 
the  children  wearied  of  their  extremely  simple  diet 
of  plain  boiled  rice  without  sugar,  and  graham 
meal  without  butter  or  molasses.  An  old  friend 
who  could  not  eat  the  bountiful  rations  provided 
for  her  at  the  United  States  Hotel,  used  to  save 
her  piece  of  pie  or  cake  for  the  Alcott  children. 
Louisa  often  took  it  home  to  the  others  in  a  band- 
box which  she  brought  for  the  purpose. 

This  friend  was  absent  in  Europe  many  years, 
and  returned  to  find  the  name  of  Louisa  Alcott 
famous.  When  she  met  the  authoress  on  the  street 
she  was  eagerly  greeted.  "Why,  I  did  not  think 
you  would  remember  me !  '  said  the  old  lady. 

2O  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

"  Do  you  think  I  shall  ever  forget  that  bandbox?  ' 
was  the  instant  reply. 

In  1840,  Mr.  Alcott's  school  having  proved  un- 
successful, the  family  removed  to  Concord,  Mass., 
and  took  a  cottage  which  is  described  in  "  Little 
Women "  as  "  Meg's  first  home,"  although  Anna 
never  lived  there  after  her  marriage.  It  was  a 
pleasant  house,  with  a  garden  full  of  trees,  and 
best  of  all  a  large  barn,  in  which  the  children 
could  have  free  range  and  act  out  all  the  plays 
with  which  their  little  heads  were  teeming.  Of 
course  it  was  a  delightful  change  from  the  city  for 
the  children,  and  here  they  passed  two  very  happy 
years,  for  they  were  too  young  to  understand  the 
cares  which  pressed  upon  the  hearts  of  their  pa- 
rents. Life  was  full  of  interest.  One  cold  morn- 
ing they  found  in  the  garden  a  little  half-starved 
bird ;  and  having  warmed  and  fed  it,  Louisa  was 
inspired  to  write  a  pretty  poem  to  "The  Robin." 
The  fond  mother  was  so  delighted  that  she  said  to 
her,  "  You  will  grow  up  a  Shakspeare  !  '  From  the 
lessons  of  her  father  she  had  formed  the  habit  of 
writing  freely,  but  this  is  the  first  recorded  instance 
of  her  attempting  to  express  her  feelings  in  verse. 

From  the  influences  of  such  parentage  as  I  have 
described,  the  family  life  in  which  Louisa  was 
brought  up  became  wholly  unique. 

If  the  father  had  to  give  up  his  cherished  projects 
of  a  school  modelled  after  his  ideas,  he  could  at 
least  conduct  the  education  of  his  own  children ; 
and  he  did  so  with  the  most  tender  devotion.  Even 
when  they  were  infants  he  took  a  great  deal  of  per- 
sonal care  of  them,  and  loved  to  put  the  little  ones 



to  bed  and  use  the  "  children's  hour"  to  instil  into 
their  hearts  lessons  of  love  and  wisdom.  He  was 
full  of  fun  too,  and  would  lie  on  the  floor  and  frolic 
with  them,  making  compasses  of  his  long  legs  with 
which  to  draw  letters  and  diagrams.  No  shade  of 
fear  mingled  with  the  children's  reverent  recogni- 
tion of  his  superior  spiritual  life.  So  their  hearts 
lay  open  to  him,  and  he  was  able  to  help  them  in 
their  troubles. 

He  taught  them  much  by  writing ;  and  we  have 
many  specimens  of  their  lists  of  words  to  be  spelled, 
written,  and  understood.  The  lessons  at  Scituate 
were  often  in  the  garden,  and  their  father  always 
drew  their  attention  to  Nature  and  her  beautiful 
forms  and  meanings.  Little  symbolical  pictures 
helped  to  illustrate  his  lessons,  and  he  sometimes 
made  drawings  himself.  Here  is  an  example  of 
lessons.  A  quaint  little  picture  represents  one 
child  playing  on  a  harp,  another  drawing  an  arrow. 
It  is  inscribed  — 



Two  passions  strong  divide  our  life,  — 
Meek,  gentle  love,  or  boisterous  strife. 

Below  the  child  playing  the  harp  is  — 

Love,  Music, 

Below  the  shooter  is  — 

Anger,  Arrow, 

22  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Another  leaflet  is  — 


Louisa  loves  — 

What  ? 
Softly.)     Fun 

Have  some  then, 


Christmas  Eve,  December,  1840. 


Beauty  or  Duty,  — 

loves  Anna  best? 



from  her 


Christmas  Eve, 

December,  1840. 


A  letter  beautifully  printed  by  her  father  for 
Louisa  (1839)  speaks  to  her  of  conscience,  and  she 
adds  to  it  this  note :  "  L.  began  early,  it  seems,  to 
wrestle  with  her  conscience."  The  children  were 

Childhood.  23 

always  required  to  keep  their  journals  regularly, 
and  although  these  were  open  to  the  inspection  of 
father  and  mother,  they  were  very  frank,  and  really 
recorded  their  struggles  and  desires.  The  mother 
had  the  habit  of  writing  little  notes  to  the  children 
when  she  wished  to  call  their  attention  to  any  fault 
or  peculiarity.  Louisa  preserved  many  of  them, 
headed, — 

\_Extracts  from  letters  from  Mother,  received  during  these 
early  years.  I  preserve  them  to  show  the  ever  tender,  watch- 
ful help  she  gave  to  the  child  who  caused  her  the  most  anx- 
iety, yet  seemed  to  be  the  nearest  to  her  heart  till  the  end.  — 
L.  M.  A.] 

No.  i.-  -Mv  DEAR  LITTLE  GIRL,-  -Will  you  accept 
this  doll  from  me  on  your  seventh  birthday?  She  will  be 
a  quiet  playmate  for  my  active  Louisa  for  seven  years 
more.  Be  a  kind  mamma,  and  love  her  for  my  sake. 



From  her  Mother. 



DEAR  DAUGHTER,  -  -  Your  tenth  birthday  has  arrived. 
May  it  be  a  happy  one,  and  on  each  returning  birthday 
may  you  feel  new  strength  and  resolution  to  be  gentle 
with  sisters,  obedient  to  parents,  loving  to  every  one,  and 
happy  in  yourself. 

I  give  you  the  pencil-case  I  promised,  for  I  have  ob- 
served that  you  are  fond  of  writing,  and  wish  to  encour- 
age the  habit. 

Go  on  trying,  dear,  and  each  day  it  will  be  easier  to  be 
and  do  good.  You  must  help  yourself,  for  the  cause  of 
your  little  troubles  is  in  yourself;  and  patience  and  cour- 

24  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

age  only  will  make  you  what  mother  prays  to  see  you,  — 
her  good  and  happy  girl. 

CONCORD,  1843. 

DEAR  LOUY,  —  I  enclose  a  picture  for  you  which  I 
always  liked  very  much,  for  I  imagined  that  you  might  be 
just  such  an  industrious  daughter  and  I  such  a  feeble  but 
loving  mother,  looking  to  your  labor  for  my  daily  bread. 

Keep  it  for  my  sake  and   your  own,  for  you  and  I 

always  liked  to  be  grouped  together. 


The  lines  I  wrote  under  the  picture  in  my  journal :  — 


I  hope  that  soon,  dear  mother, 

You  and  I  may  be 
In  the  quiet  room  my  fancy 

Has  so  often  made  for  thee,  — 

The  pleasant,  sunny  chamber, 

The  cushioned  easy-chair, 
The  book  laid  for  your  reading, 

The  vase  of  flowers  fair ; 

The  desk  beside  the  window 

Where  the  sun  shines  warm  and  bright  : 

And  there  in  ease  and  quiet 
The  promised  book  you  write  ; 

While  I  sit  close  beside  you, 

Content  at  last  to  see 
That  you  can  rest,  dear  mother, 

And  I  can  cherish  thee. 

[The  dream  came  true,  and  for  the  last  ten  years  of  her 
life  Marmee  sat  in  peace,  with  every  wish  granted,  even  to 
the  "grouping  together;"  for  she  died  in  my  arms. — 

L.  M.   A.] 

Childhood.  25 

A  passage  in  Louisa's  story  of  "  Little  Men " 
(p.  268)  describes  one  of  their  childish  plays. 
They  "  made  believe J  their  minds  were  little 
round  rooms  in  which  the  soul  lived,  and  in  which 
good  or  bad  things  were  preserved.  This  play 
was  never  forgotten  in  after  life,  and  the  girls 
often  looked  into  their  little  rooms  for  comfort  or 
guidance  in  trial  or  temptation. 

Louisa  was  very  fond  of  animals,  as  is  abundantly 
shown  in  her  stories.  She  never  had  the  happiness 
of  owning  many  pets,  except  cats,  and  these  were 
the  delight  of  the  household.  The  children  played 
all  manner  of  plays  with  them,  tended  them  in  sick- 
ness, buried  them  with  funeral  honors,  and  Louisa 
has  embalmed  their  memory  in  the  story  of  "  The 
Seven  Black  Cats  "  in  "  Aunt  Jo's  Scrap-Bag." 

Dolls  were  an  equal  source  of  pleasure.  The 
imaginative  children  hardly  recognized  them  as 
manufactured  articles,  but  endowed  them  with  life 
and  feeling.  Louisa  put  her  dolls  through  every 
experience  of  life ;  they  were  fed,  educated,  pun- 
ished, rewarded,  nursed,  and  even  hung  and  buried, 
and  then  resurrected  in  her  stories.  The  account 
of  the  "  Sacrifice  of  the  Dolls  '  to  the  exacting 
Kitty  Mouse  in  "  Little  Men  "  delights  all  chil- 
dren by  its  mixture  of  pathetic  earnestness  and 
playfulness.  It  is  taken  from  the  experience  of 
another  family  of  children. 

Miss  Alcott  twice  says  that  she  never  went  to 
any  school  but  her  father's ;  but  there  were  some 
slight  exceptions  to  this  rule.  She  went  a  few 
months  to  a  little  district  school  in  Still  River 
Village.  This  was  a  genuine  old-fashioned  school, 

26  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

from  which  she  took  the  hint  of  the  frolics  in 
"  Under  the  Lilacs."  Miss  Ford  also  kept  a  little 
school  in  Mr.  Emerson's  barn,  to  which  the  chil- 
dren went;  and  Mary  Russell  had  a  school,  which 
Louisa  attended  when  eight  or  nine  years  old. 
These  circumstances,  however,  had  small  influence 
in  her  education. 

During  this  period  of  life  in  Concord,  which  was 
so  happy  to  the  children,  the  mother's  heart  was 
full  of  anxious  care.  She  however  entered  into 
all  their  childish  pleasures,  and  her  watchful  care 
over  their  moral  growth  is  shown  by  her  letters 
and  by  Louisa's  journals. 

The  youngest  child,  Abba  May,  who  was  born 
in  the  cottage,  became  the  pet  of  the  family  and 
the  special  care  of  the  oldest  sister,  Anna. 

Louisa's  childish  journal  gives  us  many  hints 
of  this  happy  life.  She  revised  these  journals  in 
later  years,  adding  significant  comments  which 
are  full  of  interest.  She  designed  them  to  have 
place  in  her  autobiography,  which  she  hoped  to 

From  three  different  sources  —  her  journals,  an 
article  written  for  publication,  and  a  manuscript 
prepared  for  a  friend,  —  we  give  her  own  account 
of  these  childish  years.  She  has  not  followed  the 
order  of  events  strictly,  and  it  has  not  been  pos- 
sible, therefore,  to  avoid  all  repetition ;  but  they 
give  the  spirit  of  her  early  life,  and  clearly  show 
the  kind  of  education  she  received  from  her  father 
and  from  the  circumstances  around  her. 

Childhood.  27 

Sketch  of  Childhood,  by  Jicrs&lf. 

ONE  of  my  earliest  recollections  is  of  playing  with 
books  in  my  father's  study,  —  building  houses  and  bridges 
of  the  big  dictionaries  and  diaries,  looking  at  pictures, 
pretending  to  read,  and  scribbling  on  blank  pages  when- 
ever pen  or  pencil  could  be  found.  Many  of  these  first 
attempts  at  authorship  still  remain  in  Bacon's  Essays, 
Plutarch's  Lives,  and  other  works  of  a  serious  nature,  my 
infant  taste  being  for  solid  literature,  apparently. 

On  one  occasion  we  built  a  high  tower  round  baby 
Lizzie  as  she  sat  playing  with  her  toys  on  the  floor,  and 
being  attracted  by  something  out-of-doors,  forgot  our 
little  prisoner.  A  search  was  made,  and  patient  baby  at 
last  discovered  curled  up  and  fast  asleep  in  her  dungeon 
cell,  out  of  which  she  emerged  so  rosy  and  smiling  after 
her  nap  that  we  were  forgiven  for  our  carelessness. 

Another  memory  is  of  my  fourth  birthday,  which  was 
celebrated  at  my  father's  school-room  in  Masonic  Tem- 
ple. All  the  children  were  there.  I  wore  a  crown  of 
flowers,  and  stood  upon  a  table  to  dispense  cakes  to  each 
child  as  the  procession  marched  past.  By  some  over- 
sight the  cakes  fell  short,  and  I  saw  that  if  I  gave  away 
the  last  one  /  should  have  none.  As  I  was  queen  of  the 
revel,  I  felt  that  I  ought  to  have  it,  and  held  on  to  it 
tightly  till  my  mother  said,  — 

"  It  is  always  better  to  give  away  than  to  keep  the 
nice  things ;  so  I  know  my  Louy  will  not  let  the  little 
friend  go  without." 

The  little  friend  received  the  dear  plummy  cake,  and 
I  a  kiss  and  my  first  lesson  in  the  sweetness  of  self-denial, 
—  a  lesson  which  my  dear  mother  beautifully  illustrated 
all  her  long  and  noble  life. 

Running  away  was   one   of  the  delights  of  my  early 

28  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

days ;  and  I  still  enjoy  sudden  flights  out  of  the  nest  to 
look  about  this  very  interesting  world,  and  then  go  back 
to  report. 

On  one  of  these  occasions  I  passed  a  varied  day  with 
some  Irish  children,  who  hospitably  shared  their  cold 
potatoes,  salt-fish,  and  crusts  with  me  as  we  revelled  in 
the  ash-heaps  which  then  adorned  the  waste  lands  where 
the  Albany  Depot  now  stands.  A  trip  to  the  Common 
cheered  the  afternoon,  but  as  dusk  set  in  and  my  friends 
deserted  me,  I  felt  that  home  was  a  nice  place  after  all, 
and  tried  to  find  it.  I  dimly  remember  watching  a  lamp- 
lighter as  I  sat  to  rest  on  some  doorsteps  in  Bedford 
Street,  where  a  big  dog  welcomed  me  so  kindly  that  I 
fell  asleep  with  my  head  pillowed  on  his  curly  back,  and 
was  found  there  by  the  town-crier,  whom  my  distracted 
parents  had  sent  in  search  of  me.  His  bell  and  procla- 
mation of  the  loss  of  "  a  little  girl,  six  years  old,  in  a 
pink  frock,  white  hat,  and  new  green  shoes,"  woke  me 
up,  and  a  small  voice  answered  out  of  the  darkness,  — - 

"  Why,  dat's  me  !  " 

Being  with  difficulty  torn  from  my  four-footed  friend, 
I  was  carried  to  the  crier's  house,  and  there  feasted 
sumptuously  on  bread-and-molasses  in  a  tin  plate  with 
the  alphabet  round  it.  But  my  fun  ended  next  day 
when  I  was  tied  to  the  arm  of  the  sofa  to  repent  at 

I  became  an  Abolitionist  at  a  very  early  age,  but  have 
never  been  able  to  decide  whether  I  was  made  so  by 
seeing  the  portrait  of  George  Thompson  hidden  under  a 
bed  in  our  house  during  the  Garrison  riot,  and  going  to 
comfort  "  the  poor  man  who  had  been  good  to  the 
slaves,"  or  because  I  was  saved  from  drowning  in  the 
Frog  Pond  some  years  later  by  a  colored  boy.  How- 
ever that  may  be,  the  conversion  was  genuine ;  and  my 

Childhood.  29 

greatest  pride  is  in  the  fact  that  I  lived  to  know  the 
brave  men  and  women  who  did  so  much  for  the  cause, 
and  that  I  had  a  very  small  share  in  the  war  which  put 
an  end  to  a  great  wrong. 

Another  recollection  of  her  childhood  was  of 
a  "contraband'  hidden  in  the  oven,  which  must 
have  made  her  sense  of  the  horrors  of  slavery 
very  keen. 

I  never  went  to  school  except  to  my  father  or  such 
governesses  as  from  time  to  time  came  into  the  family. 
Schools  then  were  not  what  they  are  now ;  so  we  had 
lessons  each  morning  in  the  study.  And  very  happy  hours 
they  were  to  us,  for  my  father  taught  in  the  wise  way 
which  unfolds  what  lies  in  the  child's  nature,  as  a  flower 
blooms,  rather  than  crammed  it,  like  a  Strasburg  goose, 
with  more  than  it  could  digest.  I  never  liked  arithmetic 
nor  grammar,  and  dodged  those  branches  on  all  occa- 
sions ;  but  reading,  writing,  composition,  history,  and 
geography  I  enjoyed,  as  well  as  the  stories  read  to  us 
with  a  skill  peculiarly  his  own. 

"  Pilgrim's  Progress,"  Krummacher's  "  Parables,"  Miss 
Edge  worth,  and  the  best  of  the  dear  old  fairy  tales  made 
the  reading  hour  the  pleasantest  of  our  day.  On  Sun- 
days we  had  a  simple  service  of  Bible  stories,  hymns,  and 
conversation  about  the  state  of  our  little  consciences 
and  the  conduct  of  our  childish  lives  which  never  will 
be  forgotten. 

Walks  each  morning  round  the  Common  while  in  the 
city,  and  long  tramps  over  hill  and  dale  when  our  home 
was  in  the  country,  were  a  part  of  our  education,  as  well 
as  every  sort  of  housework,  —  for  which  I  have  always  been 
very  grateful,  since  such  knowledge  makes  one  indepen- 

3O  Louisa  May  Alcott, 

dent  in  these  days  of  domestic  tribulation  with  the  "  help  " 
who  are  too  often  only  hindrances. 

Needle-work  began  early,  and  at  ten  my  skilful  sister 
made  a  linen  shirt  beautifully ;  while  at  twelve  I  set  up 
as  a  doll's  dressmaker,  with  my  sign  out  and  wonderful 
models  in  my  .window.  All  the  children  employed  me, 
and  my  turbans  were  the  rage  at  one  time,  to  the  great 
dismay  of  the  neighbors'  hens,  who  were  hotly  hunted 
down,  that  I  might  tweak  out  their  downiest  feathers  to 
adorn  the  dolls'  headgear. 

Active  exercise  was  my  delight,  from  the  time  when  a 
child  of  six  I  drove  my  hoop  round  the  Common  with- 
out stopping,  to  the  days  when  I  did  my  twenty  miles  in 
five  hours  and  went  to  a  party  in  the  evening. 

I  always  thought  I  must  have  been  a  deer  or  a  horse 
in  some  former  state,  because  it  was  such  a  joy  to  run. 
No  boy  could  be  my  friend  till  I  had  beaten  him  in  a 
race,  and  no  girl  if  she  refused  to  climb  trees,  leap  fences, 
and  be  a  tomboy. 

My  wise  mother,  anxious  to  give  me  a  strong  body  to 
support  a  lively  brain,  turned  me  loose  in  the  country 
and  let  me  run  wild,  learning  of  Nature  what  no  books 
can  teach,  and  being  led,  -  -  as  those  who  truly  love  her 
seldom  fail  to  be,  - 

"  Through  Nature  up  to  Nature's  God." 

I  remember  running  over  the  hills  just  at  dawn  one 
summer  morning,  and  pausing  to  rest  in  the  silent  woods, 
saw,  through  an  arch  of  trees,  the  sun  rise  over  river,  hill, 
and  wide  green  meadows  as  I  never  saw  it  before. 

Something  born  of  the  lovely  hour,  a  happy  mood,  and 
the  unfolding  aspirations  of  a  child's  soul  seemed  to  bring 
me  very  near  to  God ;  and  in  the  hush  of  that  morning 
hour  I  always  felt  that  I  "  got  religion,"  as  the  phrase 

Childhood,  3 1 

goes.  A  new  and  vital  sense  of  His  presence,  tender  and 
sustaining  as  a  father's  arms,  came  to  me  then,  never  to 
change  through  forty  years  of  life's  vicissitudes,  but  to 
grow  stronger  for  the  sharp  discipline  of  poverty  and 
pain,'  sorrow  and  success. 

Those  Concord  days  were  the  happiest  of  my  life,  for 
we  had  charming  playmates  in  the  little  Emersons,  Chan- 
nings,  Hawthornes,  and  Goodwins,  with  the  illustrious 
parents  and  their  friends  to  enjoy  our  pranks  and  share 
our  excursions. 

Plays  in  the  bam  were  a  favorite  amusement,  and  we 
dramatized  the  fairy  tales  in  great  style.  Our  giant  came 
tumbling  off  a  loft  when  Jack  cut  down  the  squash-vine 
running  up  a  ladder  to  represent  the  immortal  bean. 
Cinderella  rolled  away  in  a  vast  pumpkin,  and  a  long 
black  pudding  was  lowered  by  invisible  hands  to  fasten 
itself  on  the  nose  of  the  woman  who  wasted  her  three 

Pilgrims  journeyed  over  the  hill  with  scrip  and  staff 
and  cockle-shells  in  their  hats ;  fairies  held  their  pretty 
revels  among  the  whispering  birches,  and  strawberry  par- 
ties in  the  rustic  arbor  were  honored  by  poets  and  phi- 
losophers, who  fed  us  on  their  wit  and  wisdom  while  the 
little  maids  served  more  mortal  food. 




A  LITTLE  kingdom  I  possess, 

Where  thoughts  and  feelings  dwell, 
And  very  hard  I  find  the  task 

Of  governing  it  well ; 
For  passion  tempts  and  troubles  me, 

A  wayward  will  misleads, 
And  selfishness  its  shadow  casts 

On  all  my  words  and  deeds. 

How  can  I  learn  to  rule  myself, 

To  be  the  child  I  should, 
Honest  and  brave,  nor  ever  tire 

Of  trying  to  be  good  ? 
How  can  I  keep  a  sunny  soul 

To  shine  along  life's  way  ? 
How  can  I  tune  my  little  heart 

To  sweetly  sing  all  day  ? 

Dear  Father,  help  me  with  the  love 

That  casteth  out  my  fear  ; 
Teach  me  to  lean  on  thee,  and  feel 

That  thou  art  very  near, 
That  no  temptation  is  unseen, 

No  childish  grief  too  small, 
Since  thou,  with  patience  infinite, 

Doth  soothe  and  comfort  all. 

I  do  not  ask  for  any  crown 

But  that  which  all  may  win, 
Nor  seek  to  conquer  any  world 

Except  the  one  within. 
Be  thou  my  guide  until  I  find, 

Led  by  a  tender  hand, 
Thy  happy  kingdom  in  myself, 

And  dare  to  take  command. 

Fruitlands.  33 

IN  1842  Mr.  Alcott  went  to  England.  His  mind 
was  very  much  exercised  at  this  time  with 
plans  for  organized  social  life  on  a  higher  plane, 
and  he  found  like-minded  friends  in  England  who 
gave  him  sympathy  and  encouragement.  He  had 
for  some  years  advocated  a  strictly  vegetarian  diet, 
to  which  his  family  consented  from  deference  to 
him ;  consequently  the  children  never  tasted  meat 
till  they  came  to  maturity.  On  his  return  from 
England  he  was  accompanied  by  friends  who  were 
ready  to  unite  with  him  in  the  practical  realization 
of  their  social  theories.  Mr.  Lane  resided  for  some 
months  in  the  Alcott  family  at  Concord,  and  gave 
instruction  to  the  children.  Although  he  does  not 
appear  to  have  won  their  hearts,  they  yet  reaped 
much  intellectual  advantage  from  his  lessons,  as  he 
was  an  accomplished  scholar. 

In  1843  this  company  of  enthusiasts  secured  a 
farm  in  the  town  of  Harvard,  near  Concord,  which 
with  trusting  hope  they  named  Fruitlands.  Mrs. 
Alcott  did  not  share  in  all  the  peculiar  ideas  of  her 
husband  and  his  friends,  but  she  was  so  utterly  de- 
voted to  him  that  she  was  ready  to  help  him  in 
carrying  out  his  plans,  however  little  they  com- 
mended themselves  to  her  better  judgment. 

She  alludes  very  briefly  to  the  experiment  in  her 
diary,  for  the  experience  was  too  bitter  to  dwell 
upon.  She  could  not  relieve  her  feelings  by 
bringing  out  the  comic  side,  as  her  daughter  did. 
Louisa's  account  of  this  colony,  as  given  in  her 
story  called  "  Transcendental  Wild  Oats,"  is  very 
close  to  the  facts  ;  and  the  mingling  of  pathos  and 
humor,  the  reverence  and  ridicule  with  which  she 


34  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

alternately  treats  the  personages  and  the  notions  of 
those  engaged  in  the  scheme,  make  a  rich  and  de- 
lightful tale.  It  was  written  many  years  later,  and 
gives  the  picture  as  she  looked  back  upon  it,  the 
absurdities  coming  out  in  strong  relief,  while  she 
sees  also  the  grand,  misty  outlines  of  the  high 
thoughts  so  poorly  realized.  This  story  was  pub- 
lished in  the  "  Independent,"  Dec.  8,  1873,  and 
may  now  be  found  in  her  collected  works  ("  Silver 
Pitchers,"  p.  79). 

Fortunately  we  have  also  her  journal  written  at 
the  time,  which  shows  what  education  the  experi- 
ence of  this  strange  life  brought  to  the  child  of  ten 
or  eleven  years  old. 

The  following  extract  from  Mr.  Emerson  proves 
that  this  plan  of  life  looked  fair  and  pleasing  to  his 
eye,  although  he  was  never  tempted  to  join  in  it. 
He  was  evidently  not  unconscious  of  the  inade- 
quacy of  the  means  adopted  to  the  end  proposed, 
but  he  rejoiced  in  any  endeavor  after  high  ideal 

JULY,  8,  1843. 

Journal.  —  The  sun  and  the  evening  sky  do  not  look 
calmer  than  Alcott  and  his  family  at  Fruitlands.  They 
seemed  to  have  arrived  at  the  fact,  —  to  have  got  rid  of 
the  show,  and  so  to  be  serene.  Their  manners  and 
behavior  in  the  house  and  in  the  field  were  those  of 
superior  men,  —  of  men  at  rest.  What  had  they  to  con- 
ceal? What  had  they  to  exhibit?  And  it  seemed  so 
high  an  attainment  that  I  thought  —  as  often  before,  so 
now  more,  because  they  had  a  fit  home,  or  the  picture 
was  fitly  framed  —  that  these  men  ought  to  be  main- 
tained in  their  place  by  the  country  for  its  culture. 

Fruitlands.  35 

Young  men  and  young  maidens,  old  men  and  women, 
should  visit  them  and  be  inspired.  I  think  there  is  as 
much  merit  in  beautiful  manners  as  in  hard  work.  I  will 
not  prejudge  them  successful.  They  look  well  in  July ; 
we  will  see  them  in  December.  I  know  they  are  better 
for  themselves  than  as  partners.  One  can  easily  see  that 
they  have  yet  to  settle  several  things.  Their  saying  that 
things  are  clear,  and  they  sane,  does  not  make  them  so. 
If  they  will  in  very  deed  be  lovers,  and  not  selfish ;  if 
they  will  serve  the  town  of  Harvard,  and  make  their 
neighbors  feel  them  as  benefactors  wherever  they  touch 
them,  —  they  are  as  safe  as  the  sun.1 

Early  Diary  kept  at  Frnitlands,  1843. 

Ten  Years  Old. 

September  \st.  —  I  rose  at  five  and  had  my  bath.  I 
love  cold  water  !  Then  we  had  our  singing-lesson  with 
Mr.  Lane.  After  breakfast  I  washed  dishes,  and  ran  on 
the  hill  till  nine,  and  had  some  thoughts,  —  it  was  so  beau- 
tiful up  there.  Did  my  lessons,  —  wrote  and  spelt  and 
did  sums ;  and  Mr.  Lane  read  a  story,  "  The  Judicious 
Father  "  :  How  a  rich  girl  told  a  poor  girl  not  to  look 
over  the  fence  at  the  flowers,  and  was  cross  to  her 
because  she  was  unhappy.  The  father  heard  her  do 
it,  and  made  the  girls  change  clothes.  The  poor  one 
was  glad  to  do  it,  and  he  told  her  to  keep  them.  But 
the  rich  one  was  very  sad ;  for  she  had  to  wear  the 
old  ones  a  week,  and  after  that  she  was  good  to  shabby 
girls.  I  liked  it  very  much,  and  I  shall  be  kind  to  poor 

Father  asked  us  what  was  God's  noblest  work.  Anna 
said  men,  but  I  said  babies.  Men  are  often  bad ;  babies 

1  Emerson  in  Concord.     By  Edward  Waldo  Emerson. 

36  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

never  are.  We  had  a  long  talk,  and  I  felt  better  after  it, 
and  cleared  ^tp. 

We  had  bread  and  fruit  for  dinner.  I  read  and  walked 
and  played  till  supper-time.  We  sung  in  the  evening. 
As  I  went  to  bed  the  moon  came  up  very  brightly  and 
looked  at  me.  I  felt  sad  because  I  have  been  cross  to- 
day, and  did  not  mind  Mother.  I  cried,  and  then  I  felt 
better,  and  said  that  piece  from  Mrs.  Sigourney,  "  I  must 
not  tease  my  mother."  I  get  to  sleep  saying  poetry,  —  I 
know  a  great  deal. 

Thursday,  \^th.  —  Mr.  Parker  Pillsbury  came,  and  we 
talked  about  the  poor  slaves.  I  had  a  music  lesson  with 
Miss  F.  I  hate  her,  she  is  so  fussy.  I  ran  in  the  wind 
and  played  be  a  horse,  and  had  a  lovely  time  in  the  woods 
with  Anna  and  Lizzie.  We  were  fairies,  and  made  gowns 
and  paper  wings.  I  "  flied  "  the  highest  of  all.  In  the 
evening  they  talked  about  travelling.  I  thought  about 
Father  going  to  England,  and  said  this  piece  of  poetry  I 
found  in  Byron's  poems  :  — 

"  When  I  left  thy  shores,  O  Naxos, 

Not  a  tear  in  sorrow  fell  ; 
Not  a  sigh  or  faltered  accent 
Told  my  bosom's  struggling  swell." 

It  rained  when  I  went  to  bed,  and  made  a  pretty 
noise  on  the  roof. 

Sunday,  24^. —  Father  and  Mr.  Lane  have  gone  to 
N.  H.  to  preach.  It  was  very  lovely.  .  .  .  Anna  and  I 
got  supper.  In  the  eve  I  read  "  Vicar  of  Wakefield." 
I  was  cross  to-day,  and  I  cried  when  I  went  to  bed.  I 
made  good  resolutions,  and  felt  better  in  my  heart.  If 
I  only  kept  all  I  make,  I  should  be  the  best  girl  in  the 
world.  But  I  don't,  and  so  am  very  bad. 

[Poor   little    sinner!      She   says   the    same    at  fifty. - 
L.  M.  A.] 

Fruitlands.  37 

October  8//z.  —  When  I  woke  up,  the  first  thought  I 
got  was,  "  It 's  Mother's  birthday  :  I  must  be  very  good." 
I  ran  and  wished  her  a  happy  birthday,  and  gave  her  my 
kiss.  After  breakfast  we  gave  her  our  presents.  I  had 
a  moss  cross  and  a  piece  of  poetry  for  her. 

We  did  not  have  any  school,  and  played  in  the  woods 
and  got  red  leaves.  In  the  evening  we  danced  and  sung, 
and  I  read  a  story  about  "  Contentment."  I  wish  I  was 
rich,  I  was  good,  and  we  were  all  a  happy  family  this 

Thursday,  i2th.  — After  lessons  I  ironed.  We  all  went 
to  the  barn  and  husked  corn.  It  was  good  fun.  We 
worked  till  eight  o'clock  and  had  lamps.  Mr.  Russell 
came.  Mother  and  Lizzie  are  going  to  Boston.  I  shall 
be  very  lonely  without  dear  little  Betty,  and  no  one  will 
be  as  good  to  me  as  mother.  I  read  in  Plutarch.  I 
made  a  verse  about  sunset :  — 

Softly  doth  the  sun  descend 

To  his  couch  behind  the  hill, 
Then,  oh,  then,  I  love  to  sit 

On  mossy  banks  beside  the  rill. 

Anna  thought  it  was  very  fine  ;  but  I  did  n't  like  it  very 

Friday,  Nov.  2nd.  —  Anna  and  I  did  the  work.      In 
the    evening    Mr.    Lane   asked   us,    "What    is    man?' 
These  were  our  answers :    A  human   being ;    an  animal 
with    a    mind ;    a    creature ;     a   body ;    a    soul    and    a 
mind.      After  a  long  talk  we  went  to  bed  very  tired. 

[No  wonder,  after  doing  the  work  and  worrying  their 
little  wits  with  such  lessons.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

A  sample  of  the  vegetarian  wafers  we  used  at  Fruit- 
lands  :  — 

38  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Vegetable  diet  Pluck  your  body  Without  flesh  diet 

and  sweet  repose.  from  the  orchard  ;  there  could  be  no 

Animal  food  and  do  not  snatch  it  blood-shedding  war. 

nightmare.  from  the  shamble. 

Apollo  eats  no  Snuff  is  no  less  snuff 

flesh  and  has  no  though  accepted  from 

beard  ;  his  voice  is  a  gold  box. 
melody  itself. 

Tuesday,  2Oth.  —  I  rose  at  five,  and  after  breakfast 
washed  the  dishes,  and  then  helped  mother  work.  Miss 
F.  is  gone,  and  Anna  in  Boston  with  Cousin  Louisa.  I 
took  care  of  Abby  (May)  in  the  afternoon.  In  the 
evening  I  made  some  pretty  things  for  my  dolly.  Father 
and  Mr.  L.  had  a  talk,  and  father  asked  us  if  we  saw  any 
reason  for  us  to  separate.  Mother  wanted  to,  she  is  so 
tired.  I  like  it,  but  not  the  school  part  or  Mr.  L. 

Eleven  years  old.  Thursday,  29  th.  —  It  was  Father's 
and  my  birthday.  We  had  some  nice  presents.  We 
played  in  the  snow  before  school.  Mother  read  "  Rosa- 
mond "  when  we  sewed.  Father  asked  us  in  the  eve 
what  fault  troubled  us  most.  I  said  my  bad  temper. 

I  told  mother  I  liked  to  have  her  write  in  my  book. 
She  said  she  would  put  in  more,  and  she  wrote  this  to 
help  me  :  — 

DEAR  LOUY,  —  Your  handwriting  improves  very  fast. 
Take  pains  and  do  not  be  in  a  hurry.  I  like  to  have  you 
make  observations  about  our  conversations  and  your  own 
thoughts.  It  helps  you  to  express  them  and  to  under- 
stand your  little  self.  Remember,  dear  girl,  that  a  diary 
should  be  an  epitome  of  your  life.  May  it  be  a  record 
of  pure  thought  and  good  actions,  then  you  will  indeed 
be  the  precious  child  of  your  loving  mother. 

December  lotfi.  —  I  did  my  lessons,  and  walked  in  the 
afternoon.     Father  read  to  us  in  dear  Pilgrim's  Progress. 

Fruitlands.  39 

Mr.  L.  was  in  Boston,  and  we  were  glad.  In  the  eve 
father  and  mother  and  Anna  and  I  had  a  long  talk.  I 
was  very  unhappy,  and  we  all  cried.  Anna  and  I  cried 
in  bed,  and  I  prayed  God  to  keep  us  all  together. 

[Little  Lu  began  early  to  feel  the  family  cares  and  pe- 
culiar trials.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

I  liked  the  verses  Christian  sung  and  will  put  them 
in :  — 

"  This  place  has  been  our  second  stage, 

Here  we  have  heard  and  seen 
Those  good  things  that  from  age  to  age 
To  others  hid  have  been. 

"  They  move  me  for  to  watch  and  pray, 

To  strive  to  be  sincere, 
To  take  my  cross  up  day  by  day, 
And  serve  the  Lord  with  fear." 

[The  appropriateness  of  the  song  at  this  time  was  much 
greater  than  the  child  saw.  She  never  forgot  this  experi- 
ence, and  her  little  cross  began  to  grow  heavier  from  this 
hour.  — L.  M.  A.] 

CONCORD,  Sunday.  —  We  all  went  into  the  woods  to 
get  moss  for  the  arbor  Father  is  making  for  Mr.  Emerson. 
I  miss  Anna  so  much.  I  made  two  verses  for  her :  — 


Sister,  dear,  when  you  are  lonely, 

Longing  for  your  distant  home, 
And  the  images  of  loved  ones 

Warmly  to  your  heart  shall  come, 
Then,  mid  tender  thoughts  and  fancies, 

Let  one  fond  voice  say  to  thee, 
"  Ever  when  your  heart  is  heavy, 

Anna,  dear,  then  think  of  me." 

40  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Think  how  we  two  have  together 

Journeyed  onward  day  by  day, 
Joys  and  sorrows  ever  sharing, 

While  the  swift  years  roll  away. 
Then  may  all  the  sunny  hours 

Of  our  youth  rise  up  to  thee, 
And  when  your  heart  is  light  and  happy, 

Anna,  dear,  then  think  of  me. 

[Poetry  began  to  flow  about  this  time  in  a  thin  but  co- 
pious stream.  —  L.  M.  A.J 

Wednesday.  —  Read  Martin  Luther.  A  long  letter 
from  Anna.  She  sends  me  a  picture  of  Jenny  Lind,  the 
great  singer.  She  must  be  a  happy  girl.  I  should  like 
to  be  famous  as  she  is.  Anna  is  very  happy ;  and  I 
don't  miss  her  as  much  as  I  shall  by  and  by  in  the 

I  wrote  in  my  Imagination  Book,  and  enjoyed  it  very 
much.  Life  is  pleasanter  than  it  used  to  be,  and  I  don't 
care  about  dying  any  more.  Had  a  splendid  run,  and 
got  a  box  of  cones  to  burn.  Sat  and  heard  the  pines 
sing  a  long  time.  Read  Miss  Bremer's  "  Home  '  in  the 
eve.  Had  good  dreams,  and  woke  now  and  then  to 
think,  and  watch  the  moon.  I  had  a  pleasant  time  with 
my  mind,  for  it  was  happy. 

[Moods  began  early. --L.  M.  A.] 

January,  1845,  Friday.  —  Did  my  lessons,  and  in  the 
p.  M.  mother  read  "  Kenilworth  ':  to  us  while  we  sewed. 
It  is  splendid  !  I  got  angry  and  called  Anna  mean. 
Father  told  me  to  look  out  the  word  in  the  Die.,  and  it 
meant  "  base,"  "  contemptible."  I  was  so  ashamed  to 
have  called  my  dear  sister  that,  and  I  cried  over  my  bad 
tongue  and  temper. 

We  have  had  a  lovely  day.    All  the  trees  were  covered 

Fruitlands.  41 

with  ice,  and  it  shone  like  diamonds  or  fairy  palaces.     I 
made  a  piece  of  poetry  about  winter  :  — 

The  stormy  winter  's  come  at  last, 
With  snow  and  rain  and  bitter  blast ; 

Ponds  and  brooks  are  frozen  o'er, 
We  cannot  sail  there  any  more. 

The  little  birds  are  flown  away 

To  warmer  climes  than  ours  ; 
They  11  come  no  more  till  gentle  May 

Calls  them  back  with  flowers. 

Oh,  then  the  darling  birds  will  sing 
From  their  neat  nests  in  the  trees. 

All  creatures  wake  to  welcome  Spring, 
And  flowers  dance  in  the  breeze. 

With  patience  wait  till  winter  is  o'er, 

And  all  lovely  things  return  ; 
Of  every  season  try  the  more 

Some  knowledge  or  virtue  to  learn. 

[A  moral  is  tacked  on  even  to  the  early  poems.  — 
L.  M.  A.] 

I  read  "  Philothea,"  *  by  Mrs.  Child.  I  found  this  that 
I  liked  in  it.  Plato  said  :  — 

"  When  I  hear  a  note  of  music  I  can  at  once  strike  its 
chord.  Even  as  surely  is  there  everlasting  harmony  be- 
tween the  soul  of  man  and  the  invisible  forms  of  creation. 
If  there  were  no  innocent  hearts  there  would  be  no  white 
lilies.  ...  I  often  think  flowers  are  the  angel's  alphabet 

1  "  Philothea "  was  the  delight  of  girls.  The  young  Alcotts 
made  a  dramatic  version  of  it,  which  they  acted  under  the  trees. 
Louisa  made  a  magnificent  Aspasia,  which  was  a  part  much  to  her 
fancy.  Mrs.  Child  was  a  very  dear  friend  of  Mrs.  Alcott,  and  her 
daughters  knew  her  well. 

42  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

whereby  they  write  on  hills   and   fields  mysterious  and 
beautiful  lessons  for  us  to  feel  and  learn." 

[Well  done,  twelve-year-old!  Plato,  the  father's  delight, 
had  a  charm  for  the  little  girl  also.  --L.  M.  A.] 

Wednesday.  —  I  am  so  cross  I  wish  I  had  never  been 

Thursday.  —  Read  the  "  Heart  of  Mid-Lothian,"  and 
had  a  very  happy  day.  Miss  Ford  gave  us  a  botany 
lesson  in  the  woods.  I  am  always  good  there.  In  the 
evening  Miss  Ford  told  us  about  the  bones  in  our  bodies, 
and  how  they  get  out  of  order.  I  must  be  careful  of 
mine,  I  climb  and  jump  and  run  so  much. 

I  found  this  note  from  dear  mother  in  my  journal :  — 

MY  DEAREST  LOUY,  —  I  often  peep  into  your  diary, 
hoping  to  see  some  record  of  more  happy  days.  "  Hope, 
and  keep  busy,"  dear  daughter,  and  in  all  perplexity  or 
trouble  come  freely  to  your 


DEAR  MOTHER,  —  You  shall  see  more  happy  days,  and 
I  will  come  to  you  with  my  worries,  for  you  are  the  best 
woman  in  the  world.  L.  M.  A. 

A  Sample  of  our  Lessons. 

"  What  virtues  do  you  wish  more  of  ?  "  asks  Mr.  L. 
I  answer :  — 

Patience,  Love,  Silence, 

Obedience,  Generosity,  Perseverance, 

Industry,  Respect,  Self-denial. 

"  What  vices  less  of  ?  " 

Idleness,  Wilfulness,  Vanity, 

Impatience,  Impudence,  Pride, 

Selfishness,  Activity.  Love  of  cats. 

Fruitlands.  43 

MR.  L.  L. 


Ho\v  can  you  get  what  you  need  ?     By  trying. 
How  do  you  try  ?     By  resolution  and  perseverance. 
How  gain  love  ?     By  gentleness. 

What  is  gentleness  ?  Kindness,  patience,  and  care  for 
other  people's  feelings. 

Who  has  it?     Father  and  Anna. 

Who  means  to  have  it  ?     Louisa,  if  she  can. 

[She  never  got  it.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

Write  a  sentence  about  anything.  "  I  hope  it  will  rain  ; 
the  garden  needs  it." 

What  are  the  elements  of  hope?  Expectation,  desire, 

What  are  the  elements  in  wish  ?     Desire. 

What  is  the  difference  between  faith  and  hope  ?  "  Faith 
can  believe  without  seeing;  hope  is  not  sure,  but  tries  to 
have  faith  when  it  desires." 

No.  3- 

What  are  the  most  valuable  kinds  of  self-denial?  Appe- 
tite, temper. 

How  is  self-denial  of  temper  known  ?  If  I  control  my 
temper,  I  am  respectful  and  gentle,  and  every  one  sees  it. 

What  is  the  result  of  this  self-denial?  Everyone  loves 
me,  and  I  am  happy. 

Why  use  self-denial  ?     For  the  good  of  myself  and  others. 

How  shall  we  learn  this  self-denial  ?  By  resolving,  and 
then  trying  hard. 

What  then  do  you  mean  to  do  ?     To  resolve  and  try. 

[Here  the  record  of  these  lessons  ends,  and  poor  little 
Alcibiades  went  to  work  and  tried  till  fifty,  but  without  any 
very  great  success,  in  spite  of  all  the  help  Socrates  and  Plato 
gave  her.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

Tuesday.  —  More  people  coming  to  live  with  us ;  I 
wish  we  could  be  together,  and  no  one  else.  I  don't 

44  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

see  who  is  to  clothe  and  feed  us  all,  when  we  are  so 
poor  now.  I  was  very  dismal,  and  then  went  to  walk 
and  made  a  poem. 


Silent  and  sad, 

When  all  are  glad, 
And  the  earth  is  dressed  in  flowers ; 

When  the  gay  birds  sing 

Till  the  forests  ring, 
As  they  rest  in  woodland  bowers. 

Oh,  why  these  tears, 

And  these  idle  fears 
For  what  may  come  to-morrow  ? 

The  birds  find  food 

From  God  so  good, 
And  the  flowers  know  no  sorrow. 

If  He  clothes  these 

And  the  leafy  trees, 
Will  He  not  cherish  thee  ? 

Why  doubt  His  care ; 

It  is  everywhere, 
Though  the  way  we  may  not  see. 

Then  why  be  sad 

When  all  are  glad, 
And  the  world  is  full  of  flowers  ? 

With  the  gay  birds  sing, 

Make  life  all  Spring, 
And  smile  through  the  darkest  hours. 

Louisa  Alcott  grew  up  so  naturally  in  a  healthy 
religious  atmosphere  that  she  breathed  and  worked 
in  it  without  analysis  or  question.  She  had  not 

Fmitlands.  45 

suffered  from  ecclesiastical  tyranny  or  sectarian 
bigotry,  and  needed  not  to  expend  any  time  or 
strength  in  combating  them.  She  does  not  appear 
do  have  suffered  from  doubt  or  questioning,  but  to 
have  gone  on  her  way  fighting  all  the  real  evils 
that  wrere  presented  to  her,  trusting  in  a  sure  power 
of  right,  and  confident  of  victory. 

CONCORD,  Thursday.  —  I  had  an  early  run  in  the 
woods  before  the  dew  was  off  the  grass.  The  moss  was 
like  velvet,  and  as  I  ran  under  the  arches  of  yellow  and 
red  leaves  I  sang  for  joy,  my  heart  was  so  bright  and  the 
world  so  beautiful.  I  stopped  at  the  end  of  the  walk  and 
saw  the  sunshine  out  over  the  wide  "Virginia  meadows." 

It  seemed  like  going  through  a  dark  life  or  grave  into 
heaven  beyond.  A  very  strange  and  solemn  feeling  came 
over  me  as  I  stood  there,  with  no  sound  but  the  rustle  of 
the  pines,  no  one  near  me,  and  the  sun  so  glorious,  as 
for  me  alone.  It  seemed  as  if  I  felt  God  as  I  never  did 
before,  and  I  prayed  in  my  heart  that  I  might  keep  that 
happy  sense  of  nearness  all  my  life. 

[I  have,  for  I  most  sincerely  think  that  the  little  girl  "pot 
religion  "  that  day  in  the  wood  when  dear  mother  Nature  led 
her  to  God.  -  -  L.  M.  A.,  1885.] 

One  of  Louisa's  strongest  desires  at  this  time 
was  for  a  room  of  her  own,  where  she  might  have 
the  solitude  she  craved  to  dream  her  dreams  and 
work  out  her  fancies.  These  sweet  little  notes  and 
an  extract  from  her  journal  show  how  this  desire 
was  felt  and  gratified. 

DEAREST  MOTHER,  —  I  have  tried  to  be  more  con- 
tented, and  I  think  I  have  been  more  so.  I  have  been 

46  Loriisa  May  Alcott. 

thinking  about  my  little  room,  which  I  suppose  I  never 
shall  have.  I  should  want  to  be  there  about  all  the 
time,  and  I  should  go  there  and  sing  and  think. 

But  I  '11  be  contented 

With  what  I  have  got; 
Of  folly  repented, 

Then  sweet  is  my  lot. 

From  your  trying  daughter, 


MY  DEAR  LOUISA,  -  -  Your  note  gave  me  so  much  de- 
light that  I  cannot  close  my  eyes  without  first  thanking 
you,  dear,  for  making  me  so  happy,  and  blessing  God 
who  gave  you  this  tender  love  for  your  mother. 

I  have  observed  all  day  your  patience  with  baby,  your 
obedience  to  me,  and  your  kindness  to  all. 

Go  on  "  trying,"  my  child  ;  God  will  give  you  strength 
and  courage,  and  help  you  fill  each  day  with  words  and 
deeds  of  love.  I  shall  lay  this  on  your  pillow,  put  a 


warm  kiss  on  your  lips,  and  say  a  little  prayer  over  you 
in  your  sleep. 


MY  LOUY,  —  I  was  grieved  at  your  selfish  behavior  this 
morning,  but  also  greatly  pleased  to  find  you  bore  so 
meekly  Father's  reproof  for  it.  That  is  the  way,  dear ; 
if  you  find  you  are  wrong,  take  the  discipline  sweetly, 
and  do  so  no  more.  It  is  not  to  be  expected  that  chil- 
dren should  always  do  right ;  but  oh,  how  lovely  to  see 
a  child  penitent  and  patient  when  the  passion  is  over. 

I  thought  a  little  prayer  as  I  looked  at  you,  and  said 
in  my  heart,  "  Dear  God,  sustain  my  child  in  this  moment 
of  trial,  that  no  hasty  word,  no  cruel  look,  no  angry  ac- 
tion may  add  to  her  fault."  And  you  were  helped.  I 
know  that  you  will  have  a  happy  day  after  the  storm  and 

Fruitlands.  47 

the  gentle  shower  •    keep  quiet,  read,  walk,  but  do  not 
talk  much  till  all  is  peace  again. 



DEAR,  —  I  am  glad  you  put  your  heart  in  the  right 
place ;  for  I  am  sure  all  true  strength  comes  from  above. 
Continue  to  feel  that  God  is  near  you,  dear  child,  and 
He  never  will  forsake  you  in  a  weak  moment.  Write  me 
always  when  you  feel  that  I  can  help  you ;  for,  though 
God  is  near,  Mother  never  forgets  you,  and  your  refuge 
is  her  arms. 

Patience,  dear,  will  give  us  content,  if  nothing  else. 
Be  assured  the  little  room  you  long  for  will  come,  if  it  is 
necessary  to  your  peace  and  well-being.  Till  then  try 
to  be  happy  with  the  good  things  you  have.  They  are 
many,  -  -  more  perhaps  than  we  deserve,  after  our  fre- 
quent complaints  and  discontent. 

Be  cheerful,  my  Louy,  and  all  will  be  gayer  for  your 
laugh,  and  all  good  and  lovely  things  will  be  given  to 
you  when  you  deserve  them. 

I  am  a  busy  woman,  but  never  can  forget  the  calls  of 
my  children. 


DEAREST, —  I  am  sure  you  have  lived  very  near  to  God 
to-aa\,  you  have  been  so  good  and  happy.  Let  each  day 
be  like  this,  and  life  will  become  a  sweet  song  for  you  and 
all  who  love  you,  —  none  so  much  as  your 


Thirteen  Years  Old. 


March,  1846.  —  I  have  at  last  got  the  little  room  I 
have  wanted  so  long,  and  am  very  happy  about  it.  It 

48  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

does  me  good  to  be  alone,  and  Mother  has  made  it  very 
pretty  and  neat  for  me.  My  work-basket  and  desk  are 
by  the  window,  and  my  closet  is  full  of  dried  herbs  that 
smell  very  nice.  The  door  that  opens  into  the  garden 
will  be  very  pretty  in  summer,  and  I  can  run  off  to  the 
woods  when  I  like. 

I  have  made  a  plan  for  my  life,  as  I  am  in  my  teens, 
and  no  more  a  child.  I  am  old  for  my  age,  and  don't 
care  much  for  girl's  things.  People  think  I  'm  wild  and 
queer ;  but  Mother  understands  and  helps  me.  I  have 
not  told  any  one  about  my  plan ;  but  I  'm  going  to  be 
good.  I  Ve  made  so  many  resolutions,  and  written  sad 
notes,  and  cried  over  my  sins,  and  it  does  n't  seem  to  do 
any  good  !  Now  I  'm  going  to  work  really,  for  I  feel  a 
true  desire  to  improve,  and  be  a  help  and  comfort,  not  a 
care  and  sorrow,  to  my  dear  mother. 

Fifteen  Years  Old. 

Sunday,  Oct.  9,  1847.  —  I  have  been  reading  to-day 
Bettine's  correspondence  with  Goethe. 

She  calls  herself  a  child,  and  writes  about  the  lovely 
things  she  saw  and  heard,  and  felt  and  did.  I  liked  it 

[First  taste  of  Goethe.  Three  years  later  R.  W.  E.  gave 
me  "Wilhelm  Meister,"  and  from  that  day  Goethe  has  been 
my  chief  idol. — L.  M.  A.,  1885.] 

The  experiment  at  Fruitlands  was  (outwardly) 
an  utter  failure,  and  had  exhausted  Mr.  Alcott's 
resources  of  mind,  body,  and  estate.  Louisa  has 
not  exaggerated  the  collapse  which  followed.  But 
the  brave,  loving  mother  could  not  give  way  to 
despondency,  for  she  had  her  young  to  care  for. 
After  a  few  days  Mr.  Alcott  rose  from  his  despair, 

Fruitlands.  49 

and  listened  to  her  counsel.  They  lived  a  short 
time  at  Still  River,  and  then  returned  to  Concord ; 
but  not  to  the  happy  little  cottage. 

Mr.  Alcott  sought  such  work  as  he  could  find  to 
do  with  his  hands  ;  but  it  was  scanty  and  insufficient. 
Mrs.  Alcott  subdued  her  proud  heart  to  the  neces- 
sity of  seeking  help  from  friends.  They  had  a  few 
rooms  in  the  house  of  a  kind  neighbor,  who  wel- 
comed them  to  her  house,  in  addition  to  her  own 
large  family;  and  there  they  struggled  with  the 
poverty  which  Louisa  for  the  first  time  fully 

Yet  her  journal  says  little  of  the  hardships  they 
endured,  but  is  full  of  her  mental  and  moral  strug- 
gles. It  was  characteristic  of  this  family  that  they 
never  were  conquered  by  their  surroundings.  Mr. 
Alcott  might  retire  into  sad  and  silent  musing,  Mrs. 
Alcott's  warm,  quick  temper,  might  burst  out  into 
flame,  the  children  might  be  quarrelsome  or  noisy; 
but  their  ideal  of  life  always  remained  high,  fresh, 
and  ennobling.  Their  souls  always  "  knew  their 
destiny  divine,"  and  believed  that  they  would  find 
fitting  expression  in  life  some  time.  "  Chill  penury ': 
could  not  repress  "  their  noble  rage,"  nor  freeze 
"  the  genial  current"  of  their  souls. 

The  children  escaped  from  the  privations  of  daily 
life  into  a  world  of  romance,  and  in  the  plays  in  the 
old  barn  revelled  in  luxury  and  splendor.  This 
dramatic  tendency  was  very  strong  in  Louisa,  and 
she  never  outgrew  it.  It  took  various  shapes  and 
colors,  and  at  one  time  threatened  to  dominate  her 

The  education  of  the  children  was  certainly  des- 


50  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

ultory  and  insufficient;  but  it  was  inspiring,  and 
brought  out  their  powers.  They  learned  to  feel  and 
to  think  justly,  and  to  express  their  thoughts  and  feel- 
ings freely  and  forcibly,  if  they  did  not  know  well  the 
rules  of  grammar  and  rhetoric.  Mr.  Alcott  always 
loved  the  study  of  language,  and  became  a  master 
of  it;  while  Mrs.  Alcott  had  a  rich  and  well-chosen 
vocabulary,  gained  from  the  intelligent  companions 
of  her  youth  and  the  best  literature,  which  she 
read  freely.  Mr.  Alcott  made  great  use  of  the 
study  of  language  in  his  teaching,  and  often  em- 
ployed the  definition  of  a  word  to  convey  a  lesson 
or  a  rebuke.  The  children  were  encotfraged,  and 
even  required,  to  keep  their  journals  regularly,  and 
to  write  letters.  Their  efforts  at  poetry  or  the 
drama  were  not  laughed  at,  but  treasured  by  their 
parents  as  indications  of  progress.  Mr.  Alcott's 
records  of  his  own  theory  and  practice  in  the  edu- 
cation of  children  are  full  of  valuable  suggestion, 
and  much  yet  remains  buried  in  his  journals.  The 
girls  had  full  freedom  to  act  out  their  natures,  with 
little  fear  of  ridicule  or  criticism.  An  innate  sense 
of  dignity  and  modesty  kept  them  from  abusing 
this  liberty ;  and  perhaps  nowhere  in  the  world 
could  it  have  been  more  safely  indulged  than  in  the 
simple  life  of  Concord,  whose  very  atmosphere 
seemed  then  filled  \vith  a  spiritual  presence  which 
made  life  free,  pure,  and  serene. 

Louisa  gives  this  interesting  anecdote  of  their  life 
at  that  time  :  — 

People  wondered  at  our  frolics,  but  enjoyed  them,  and 
droll  stories  are  still  told  of  the  adventures  of  those  days. 

Fruitlands.  5 1 

Mr.  Emerson  and  Margaret  Fuller  were  visiting  my  par- 
ents one  afternoon,  and  the  conversation  having  turned 
to  the  ever  interesting  subject  of  education,  Miss  Fuller 
said  :  — 

"  Well,  Mr.  Alcctt,  you  have  been  able  to  carry  out 
your  methods  in  your  own  family,  and  I  should  like  to 
see  your  model  children." 

She  did  in  a  few  moments,  for  as  the  guests  stood  on 
the  door-steps  a  wild  uproar  approached,  and  round  the 
corner  of  the  house  came  a  wheelbarrow  holding  baby 
May  arrayed  as  a  queen ;  I  was  the  horse,  bitted  and 
bridled,  and  driven  by  my  elder  sister  Anna ;  while  Liz- 
zie played  dog,  and  barked  as  loud  as  her  gentle  voice 

All  were  shouting  and  wild  with  fun,  which,  however, 
came  to  a  sudden  end  as  we  espied  the  stately  group  be- 
fore us ;  for  my  foot  tripped,  and  down  we  all  went  in  a 
laughing  heap  ;  while  my  mother  put  a  climax  to  the  joke 
by  saying,  with  a  dramatic  wave  of  the  hand,  — 

"  Here  are  the  model  children,  Miss  Fuller." 

They  were  undoubtedly  very  satisfactory  to  Miss 
Fuller,  who  partook  largely  of  the  educational 
views  of  that  time,  and  who  loved  to  tell  anecdotes 
of  this  family.  One  of  the  sisters  writes  in  her 
diary :  "  She  said  prayers ;  but  I  think  my  resolu- 
tions to  be  good  are  prayers." 

In  1841  Colonel  May,  Mrs.  Alcott's  father,  died 
and  left  her  a  small  amount  of  property.  Mrs. 
Alcott  decided  to  purchase  with  this  a  house  in 
Concord,  and  the  addition  of  five  hundred  dollars 
from  Mr.  Emerson,  who  was  always  the  good  Provi- 
dence of  the  family,  enabled  her  in  1845  to  buy 
the  place  in  Concord  known  as  Hillside.  This 

52  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

house  is  on  the  road  to  Lexington,  about  one  third 
of  a  mile  from  Mr.  Emerson's  home.  It  was  after- 
ward occupied  by  Mr.  Hawthorne. 

In  this  house  the  girlish  life  of  Louisa  was 
passed,  which  she  has  represented  so  fully  in 
"  Little  Women,"  and  of  which  she  speaks  in  her 
journal  as  the  happiest  time  of  her  life.  Yet  she 
was  not  unmindful  of  the  anxiety  of  her  parents ; 
and  the  determined  purpose  to  retrieve  the  for- 
tunes of  the  family  and  to  give  to  her  mother  the 
comfort  and  ease  which  she  had  never  known  in 
her  married  life  became  the  constant  motive  of  her 
conduct.  It  is  in  the  light  of  this  purpose  alone 
that  her  character  and  her  subsequent  career  can 
be  fully  understood.  She  naturally  thought  of 
teaching  as  her  work,  and  had  for  a  short  time  a 
little  school  in  the  barn  for  Mr.  Emerson's  children 
and  others. 

It  was  indeed  a  great  comfort  to  be  sure  of  the 
house  over  their  heads,  but  there  were  still  six 
mouths  to  be  fed,  six  bodies  to  be  clothed,  and 
four  young,  eager  minds  to  be  educated.  Concord 
offered  very  little  opportunity  for  such  work  as 
either  Mr.  or  Mrs.  Alcott  could  do,  and  at  last 
even  the  mother's  brave  heart  broke  down.  She 
was  painfully  anxious  about  the  support  of  her 
household.  A  friend  passing  through  Concord 
called  upon  her,  and  Mrs.  Alcott  could  not  hide 
the  traces  of  tears  on  her  face.  "  Abby  Alcott, 
what  does  this  mean?'  said  the  visitor,  with  de- 
termined kindness.  The  poor  mother  opened  her 
heart  to  her  friend,  and  told  the  story  of  their 
privations  and  sufferings. 

Fruitlands.  53 

"  Come  to  Boston,  and  I  will  find  you  employ- 
ment," said  the  friend. 

The  family  removed  to  Boston  in  1848,  and  Mrs. 
Alcott  became  a  visitor  to  the  poor  in  the  employ 
of  one  or  more  benevolent  societies,  and  finally 
kept  an  intelligence  office.  Her  whole  heart  went 
into  her  work;  and  the  children,  as  well  as  the 
mother,  learned  many  valuable  lessons  from  it. 
Her  reports  of  her  work  are  said  to  have  been  very 
interesting,  and  full  of  valuable  suggestion. 

Mr.  Alcott  began  to  hold  conversations  in  West 
Street.  He  attracted  a  small  circle  of  thoughtful 
men  and  women  about  him,  who  delighted  in  the 
height  of  his  aspirations  and  the  originality  of  his 
thoughts.  It  was  congenial  occupation  for  him, 
and  thus  added  to  the  happiness  of  the  family, 
though  very  little  to  its  pecuniary  resources.  His 
price  of  admission  was  small,  and  he  freely  invited 
any  one  who  would  enjoy  the  meetings  although 
unable  to  pay  for  them.  He  was  a  great  and  help- 
ful influence  to  young  minds.  Besides  the  morally 
pure  and  spiritually  elevated  atmosphere  of  thought 
to  which  they  were  introduced  by  him,  they  found 
a  great  intellectual  advantage  in  the  acquaintance 
with  ancient  poets  and  philosophers,  into  whose 
life  he  had  entered  sympathetically.  His  peculiar 
theories  of  temperament  and  diet  never  failed  to 
call  out  discussion  and  opposition.  One  of  my 
earliest  recollections  of  Louisa  is  on  one  of  these 
occasions,  when  he  was  emphasizing  his  doctrine 
that  a  vegetable  diet  would  produce  unruffled  sweet- 
ness of  temper  and  disposition.  I  heard  a  voice 
behind  me  saying  to  her  neighbor:  "  I  don't  know 

54  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

about  that.  I  Ve  never  eaten  any  meat,  and  I  'm 
awful  cross  and  irritable  very  often." 

On  her  fourteenth  birthday  her  mother  wrote 
her  the  following  poem,  with  a  present  of  a  pen.  It 
was  a  prophetic  gift,  and  well  used  by  the  receiver. 

Oh,  may  this  pen  your  muse  inspire, 

When  wrapt  in  pure  poetic  fire, 
To  write  some  sweet,  some  thrilling  verse ; 

A  song  of  love  or  sorrow's  lay, 
Or  duty's  clear  but  tedious  way 

In  brighter  hope  rehearse. 
Oh,  let  your  strain  be  soft  and  high, 

Of  crosses  here,  of  crowns  beyond  the  sky ; 
Truth  guide  your  pen,  inspire  your  theme, 

And  from  each  note  joy's  music  stream. 

[Original,  I  think.  I  have  tried  to  obey.  —  L.  M.  A., 

In  a  sketch  written  for  a  friend,  Louisa  gives  this 
account  of  the  parents'  influence  on  the  children  :  - 

When  cautious  friends  asked  mother  how  she  dared  to 
have  such  outcasts  among  her  girls,  she  always  answered, 
with  an  expression  of  confidence  which  did  much  to  keep 
us  safe,  "  I  can  trust  my  daughters,  and  this  is  the  best 
way  to  teach  them  how  to  shun  these  sins  and  comfort 
these  sorrow's.  They  cannot  escape  the  knowledge  of 
them  ;  better  gain  this  under  their  father's  roof  and  their 
mother's  care,  and  so  be  protected  by  these  experiences 
when  their  turn  comes  to  face  the  world  and  its  tempta- 
tions." Once  we  carried  our  breakfast  to  a  starving 


family ;  once  lent  our  whole  dinner  to  a  neighbor  sud- 
denly taken  unprepared  by  distinguished  guests.  Another 
time,  one  snowy  Saturday  night,  when  our  wood  was  very 
low,  a  poor  child  came  to  beg  a  little,  as  the  baby  was 

Fruitlands.  5  5 

sick  and  the  father  on  a  spree  with  all  his  wages.  My 
mother  hesitated  at  first,  as  we  also  had  a  baby.  Very 
cold  weather  was  upon  us,  and  a  Sunday  to  be  got 
through  before  more  wood  could  be  had.  My  father 
said,  "  Give  half  our  stock,  and  trust  in  Providence ;  the 
weather  will  moderate,  or  wood  will  come."  Mother 
laughed,  and  answered  in  her  cheery  way,  "  Well,  their 
need  is  greater  than  ours,  and  if  our  half  gives  out  we 
can  go  to  bed  and  tell  stories."  So  a  generous  half  went 
to  the  poor  neighbor,  and  a  little  later  in  the  eve,  while 
the  storm  still  raged  and  we  were  about  to  cover  our  fire 
to  keep  it,  a  knock  came,  and  a  farmer  who  usually  sup- 
plied us  appeared,  saying  anxiously,  "  I  started  for  Boston 
with  a  load  of  wood,  but  it  drifts  so  I  want  to  go  home. 
Would  n't  you  like  to  have  me  drop  the  wood  here ;  it 
would  accommodate  me,  and  you  need  n't  hurry  about 
paying  for  it."  "  Yes,"  said  Father ;  and  as  the  man  went 
off  he  turned  to  Mother  with  a  look  that  much  impressed 
us  children  with  his  gifts  as  a  seer,  "  Did  n't  I  tell  you 
wood  would  come  if  the  weather  did  not  moderate?" 
Mother's  motto  was  "  Hope,  and  keep  busy,"  and  one 
of  her  sayings,  "  Cast  your  bread  upon  the  waters,  and 
after  many  days  it  will  come  back  buttered." 




QUEEN  of  my  tub,  I  merrily  sing, 

While  the  white  foam  rises  high, 
And  sturdily  wash,  and  rinse,  and  wring, 

And  fasten  the  clothes  to  dry ; 
Then  out  in  the  free  fresh  air  they  swing, 

Under  the  sunny  sky. 

I  wish  we  could  wash  from  our  hearts  and  our  souls 

The  stains  of  the  week  away, 
And  let  water  and  air  by  their  magic  make 

Ourselves  as  pure  as  they  ; 
Then  on  the  earth  there  would  be  indeed 

A  glorious  washing-day ! 

Along  the  path  of  a  useful  life 

Will  heart's-ease  ever  bloom  ; 
The  busy  mind  has  no  time  to  think 

Of  sorrow,  or  care,  or  gloom  ; 
And  anxious  thoughts  may  be  swept  away 

As  we  busily  wield  a  broom. 

I  am  glad  a  task  to  me  is  given 

To  labor  at  day  by  day  ; 
For  it  brings  me  health,  and  strength,  and  hope, 

And  I  cheerfully  learn  to  say,  — 
"  Head,  you  may  think  ;  heart,  you  may  feel ; 

But  hand,  you  shall  work  alway  !  " 

THE  period  of  free,  happy  childhood  was  neces- 
sarily short,  and  at  about  the  age  of  fifteen 
Louisa  Alcott  began  to  feel  the  pressure  of  thoughts 
and  duties  which  made  life  a  more  solemn  matter. 

The  Sentimental  Period.  57 

In  spite  of  the  overflowing  fun  which  appears  in 
her  books,  her  nature  was  very  serious,  and  she 
could  not  cast  aside  care  lightly.  So  many  vary- 
ing tendencies  existed  in  her  character  that  she 
must  have  struggled  with  many  doubts  and  ques- 
tions before  finding  the  true  path.  But  she  always 
kept  the  pole-star  of  right  strictly  in  view,  and 
never  failed  in  truth  to  that  duty  which  seemed  to 
her  nearest  and  most  imperative.  If  she  erred  in 
judgment,  she  did  not  err  in  conscientious  fidelity. 
Her  mother's  rules  for  her  guidance  were  — 

Rule  yourself. 

Love  your  neighbor. 

Do  the  duty  which  lies  nearest  you. 

She  never  lost  sight  of  these  instructions. 
I  will  introduce  this  period  in  her  own  words,  as 
written  later  for  the  use  of  a  friend. 

My  romantic  period  began  at  fifteen,  when  I  fell  to 
writing  poetry,  keeping  a  heart -journal,  and  wandering 
by  moonlight  instead  of  sleeping  quietly.  About  that 
time,  in  browsing  over  Mr.  Emerson's  library,  I  found 
Goethe's  "  Correspondence  with  a  Child,"  and  at  once 
was  fired  with  a  desire  to  be  a  Bettine,  making  my 
father's  friend  my  Goethe.  So  I  wrote  letters  to  him, 
but  never  sent  them ;  sat  in  a  tall  cherry-tree  at  mid- 
night, singing  to  the  moon  till  the  owls  scared  me  to 
bed  ;  left  wild  flowers  on  the  doorstep  of  my  "  Master," 
and  sung  Mignon's  song  under  his  window  in  very  bad 

Not  till  many  years  later  did  I  tell  my  Goethe  of  this 
early  romance  and  the  part  he  played  in  it.  He  was 
much  amused,  and  begged  for  his  letters,  kindly  saying 

58  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

he  felt  honored  to  be  so  worshipped.  The  letters  were 
burnt  long  ago,  but  Emerson  remained  my  "  Master  ' 
while  he  lived,  doing  more  for  me,  -  -  as  for  many  another, 
—  than  he  knew,  by  the  simple  beauty  of  his  life,  the  truth 
and  wisdom  of  his  books,  the  example  of  a  great,  good 
man,  untempted  and  unspoiled  by  the  world  which  he 
made  better  while  in  it,  and  left  richer  and  nobler  when 
he  went. 

The  trials  of  life  began  about  this  time,  and  happy 
childhood  ended.  One  of  the  most  memorable  days  of 
my  life  is  a  certain  gloomy  November  afternoon,  when  we 
had  been  holding  a  family  council  as  to  ways  and  means. 
In  summer  we  lived  much  as  the  birds  did,  on  our  fruit 
and  bread  and  milk ;  the  sun  was  our  fire,  the  sky  our 
roof,  and  Nature's  plenty  made  us  forget  that  such  a 
thing  as  poverty  existed. 

In  1850  she  heads  her  diary  "The  Sentimental 
Period."  She  was  then  seventeen  years  old,  but 
her  diary  gives  no  hint  of  the  sentimental  notions 
that  often  fill  the  heads  of  young  girls  at  that 
period.  The  experiences  of  Jo  with  her  charm- 
ing young  neighbor  in  "Little  Women"  do  not 
represent  hers  at  all. 

One  bit  of  romance  was  suggested  by  Goethe's 
"  Correspondence  with  a  Child."  It  may  be  diffi- 
cult for  readers  of  to-day  to  understand  the  fasci- 
nation which  this  book  exercised  upon  young 
minds  of  the  last  generation,  yet  it  is  certain  that 
it  led  more  than  one  young  girl  to  form  an  ideal 
attachment  to  a  man  far  older  than  herself,  but  full 
of  nobility  and  intellectual  greatness.  Theodore 
Parker  said  of  letters  addressed  to  him  by  a  young 
New  Hampshire  girl,  "  They  are  as  good  as  Bet- 

The  Sentimental  Period.  59 

tine's  without  the  lies."  This  mingling  of  idealism 
and  hero-worship  was  strongly  characteristic  of 
that  transcendental  period  when  women,  having 
little  solid  education  and  less  industrial  employ- 
ment, were  full  of  noble  aspirations  and  longings 
for  fuller  and  freer  life,  which  must  find  expression 
in  some  way. 

The  young  woman  of  to-day,  wearing  waterproof 
and  india-rubber  boots,  skating,  driving,  and  bicy- 
cling, studying  chemistry  in  the  laboratory,  exhibit- 
ing her  pictures  in  open  competition,  adopting  a 
profession  without  opposition,  and  living  single 
without  fear  of  reproach,  has  less  time  for  fancies 
and  more  regard  for  facts. 

Miss  Alcott  was  safe  In  choosing  her  idol.  Wor- 
ship of  Emerson  could  only  refine  and  elevate  her 
thoughts,  and  her  intimate  acquaintance  with  his 
beautiful  home  chastened  her  idolatry  into  pure 
reverent  friendship  which  never  failed  her.  She 
kept  her  worship  to  herself,  and  never  sent  him 
the  letters  in  which  she  poured  out  the  longings 
and  raptures  which  filled  her  girlish  heart. 

Her  diary,  which  was  revised  by  herself  in  later 
years,  tells  the  story  of  this  period  quite  fully. 
The  details  may  seem  trifling,  but  they  help  to 
illustrate  this  important  formative  period. of  her 



BOSTON,  May,  1850.  —  So  long  a  time  has  passed  since 
I  kept  a  journal  that  I  hardly  know  how  to  begin.  Since 
coming  to  the  city  I  don't  seem  to  have  thought  much, 

60  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

for  the  bustle  and  dirt  and  change  send  all  lovely  images 
and  restful  feelings  away.  Among  my  hills  and  woods  I 
had  fine  free  times  alone,  and  though  my  thoughts  were 
silly,  I  daresay,  they  helped  to  keep  me  happy  and  good. 
I  see  now  what  Nature  did  for  me,  and  my  "  romantic 
tastes,"  as  people  called  that  love  of  solitude  and  out-of- 
door  life,  taught  me  much. 

This  summer,  like  the  last,  we  shall  spend  in  a  large 
house  (Uncle  May's,  Atkinson  Street),  with  many  com- 
forts about  us  which  we  shall  enjoy,  and  in  the  autumn  I 
hope  I  shall  have  something  to  show  that  the  time  has 
not  been  wasted.  Seventeen  years  have  I  lived,  and  yet 
so  little  do  I  know,  and  so  much  remains  to  be  done 
before  I  begin  to  be  what  I  desire,  —  a  truly  good  and 
useful  woman. 

In  looking  over  our  journals,  Father  says,  "  Anna's  is 
about  other  people,  Louisa's  about  herself."  That  is 
true,  for  I  don't  talk  about  myself  ;  yet  must  always 
think  of  the  wilful,  moody  girl  I  try  to  manage,  and  in 
my  journal  I  write  of  her  to  see  how  she  gets  on.  Anna 
is  so  good  she  need  not  take  care  of  herself,  and  can 
enjoy  other  people.  If  I  look  in  my  glass,  I  try  to  keep 
down  vanity  about  my  long  hair,  my  well-shaped  head, 
and  my  good  nose.  In  the  street  I  try  not  to  covet 
fine  things.  My  quick  tongue  is  always  getting  me  into 
trouble,  and  my  moodiness  makes  it  hard  to  be  cheerful 
when  I  think  how  poor  we  are,  how  much  worry  it  is 
to  live,  and  how  many  things  I  long  to  do  I  never  can. 

So  every  day  is  a  battle,  and  I  'm  so  tired  I  don't 
want  to  live ;  only  it 's  cowardly  to  die  till  you  have  done 

I  can't  talk  to  any  one  but  Mother  about  my  troubles, 
and  she  has  so  many  now  to  bear  I  try  not  to  add  any 
more.  I  know  God  is  always  ready  to  hear,  but  heaven  's 

The  Sentimental  Period.  61 

so  far  away  in  the  city,  and  I  so  heavy  I  can't  fly  up  to 
find  Him. 


Written  in  the  diary. 

Oh,  when  the  heart  is  full  of  fears 
And  the  way  seems  dim  to  heaven, 

When  the  sorrow  and  the  care  of  years 
Peace  from  the  heart  has  driven,  - 

Then,  through  the  mist  of  falling  tears, 
Look  up  and  be  forgiven. 

Forgiven  for  the  lack  of  faith 

That  made  all  dark  to  thee, 
Let  conscience  o'er  thy  wayward  soul 

Have  fullest  mastery  : 
Hope  on,  fight  on,  and  thou  shalt  win 

A  noble  victory. 

Though  thou  art  weary  and  forlorn, 

Let  not  thy  heart's  peace  go  ; 
Though  the  riches  of  this  world  are  gone, 

And  thy  lot  is  care  and  woe, 
Faint  not,  but  journey  hourly  on  : 

True  wealth  is  not  below. 

Through  all  the  darkness  still  look  up: 

Let  virtue  be  thy  guide  ; 
Take  thy  draught  from  sorrow's  cup, 

Yet  trustfully  abide; 
Let  not  temptation  vanquish  thee, 

And  the  Father  will  provide. 

[We  had  small-pox  in  the  family  this  summer,  caught  from 
some  poor  immigrants  whom  mother  took  into  our  garden  and 
fed  one  day.  We  girls  had  it  lightly,  but  Father  and  Mother 
were  very  ill,  and  we  had  a  curious  time  of  exile,  danger,  and 
trouble.  No  doctors,  and  all  got  well.  --L.  M.  A.] 

62  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

July,  1850.  —  Anna  is  gone  to  L.  after  the  varioloid. 

She  is  to  help  Mrs. with  her  baby.     I  had  to  take 

A.'s  school  of  twenty  in  Canton  Street.  I  like  it  better 
than  I  thought,  though  it 's  very  hard  to  be  patient  with 
the  children  sometimes.  They  seem  happy,  and  learn 
fast ;  so  I  am  encouraged,  though  at  first  it  was  very  hard, 
and  I  missed  Anna  so  much  I  used  to  cry  over  my  dinner 
and  be  very  blue.  I  guess  this  is  the  teaching  I  need  ; 
for  as  a  school-marm  I  must  behave  myself  and  guard  my 
tongue  and  temper  carefully,  and  set  an  example  of 
sweet  manners. 

I  found  one  of  mother's  notes  in  my  journal,  so  like 
those  she  used  to  write  me  when  she  had  more  time.  It 
always  encourages  me  ;  and  I  wish  some  one  would  write 
as  helpfully  to  her,  for  she  needs  cheering  up  with  all  the 
care  she  has.  I  often  think  what  a  hard  life  she  has  had 
since  she  married,  -  -  so  full  of  wandering  and  all  sorts  of 
worry  !  so  different  from  her  early  easy  days,  the  youngest 
and  most  petted  of  her  family.  I  think  she  is  a  very 
brave,  good  woman ;  and  my  dream  is  to  have  a  lovely, 
quiet  home  for  her,  with  no  debts  or  troubles  to  burden 
her.  But  I  'm  afraid  she  will  be  in  heaven  before  I  can 
do  it.  Anna,  too,  she  is  feeble  and  homesick,  and  I  miss 
her  dreadfully ;  for  she  is  my  conscience,  always  true  and 
just  and  good.  She  must  have  a  good  time  in  a  nice 
little  home  of  her  own  some  day,  as  we  often  plan.  But 
waiting  is  so  hard ! 

August,  1850.  —  School  is  hard  work,  and  I  feel  as 
though  I  should  like  to  run  away  from  it.  But  my 
children  get  on ;  so  I  travel  up  every  day,  and  do 
my  best. 

I  get  very  little  time  to  write  *or  think  ;  for  my  working 
days  have  begun,  and  when  school  is  over  Anna  wants 
me  ;  so  I  have  no  quiet.  I  think  a  little  solitude  every 

The  Sentimental  Period.  63 

day  is  good  for  me.  In  the  quiet  I  see  my  faults,  and 
try  to  mend  them ;  but,  deary  me,  I  don't  get  on  at 

I  used  to  imagine  my  mind  a  room  in  confusion,  and 
I  was  to  put  it  in  order ;  so  I  swept  out  useless  thoughts 
and  dusted  foolish  fancies  away,  and  furnished  it  with 
good  resolutions  and  began  again.  But  cobwebs  get  in. 
I  'm  not  a  good  housekeeper,  and  never  get  my  room  in 
nice  order.  I  once  wrote  a  poem  about  it  when  I  was 
fourteen,  and  called  it  "  My  Little  Kingdom."  It  is  still 
hard  to  rule  it,  and  always  will  be  I  think. 

Reading  Miss  Bremer  and  Hawthorne.  The  "  Scarlet 
Letter"  is  my  favorite.  Mother  likes  Miss  B.  better,  as 
more  wholesome.  I  fancy  "  lurid '  things,  if  true  and 
strong  also. 

Anna  wants  to  be  an  actress,  and  so  do  I.  We  could 
make  plenty  of  money  perhaps,  and  it  is  a  very  gay  life. 
Mother  says  we  are  too  young,  and  must  wait.  A.  acts 
often  splendidly.  I  like  tragic  plays,  and  shall  be  a  Sid- 
dons  if  I  can.  We  get  up  fine  ones,  and  make  harps, 
castles,  armor,  dresses,  water-falls,  and  thunder,  and  have 
great  fun. 

It  was  at  this  period  of  her  life  that  she  was  vio- 
lently attacked  by  a  mania  for  the  stage,  and  the 
greater  part  of  her  leisure  time  was  given  to  writing 
and  enacting  dramas.  Her  older  sister,  Anna,  had 
the  same  taste,  and  assisted  her  in  carrying  out  all 
her  plans.  A  family  of  great  talent  with  whom 
they  were  intimate  joined  with  them,  and  their 
mother  always  allowed  them  to  have  all  the  private 
theatricals  they  wished  to  perform. 

Some  of  these  early  plays  are  preserved  in  man- 
uscripts as  she  wrote  them.  They  are  written  in 

64  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

stilted,  melodramatic  style,  full  of  highstrung  senti- 
ments of  loyalty,  honor  and  devotion,  with  the 
most  improbable  incidents  and  violent  devices,  and 
without  a  touch  of  common  life  or  the  slightest 
flavor  of  humor.  The  idea  of  self-sacrifice  always 
comes  into  them ;  but  they  are  thoroughly  girlish. 
It  is  so  that  girls  dream  and  feel  before  they  know 
life  at  all.  Their  hearts  are  full  of  vague,  restless 
longings,  and  they  seek  some  vent  for  the  repressed 
energies  of  their  natures  away  from  the  prosaic  re- 
alities of  the  present.  While  Louisa  sat  sewing 
the  tedious  seams  of  her  daily  task  what  a  relief  it 
was  to  let  her  imagination  run  riot  among  the 
wildest  and  most  exciting  scenes.  Of  course  she 
had  a  "  Bandit's  Bride  "  among  her  plays.  "  The 
Captive  of  Castile ;  or,  The  Moorish  Maiden's 
Vow,"  is  preserved  entire,  and  is  a  good  specimen 
of  these  girlish  efforts.  It  is  full  of  surprises 
and  concealments,  and  the  denouement  is  as  un- 
natural as  could  well  be  imagined.  The  dialogue 
is  often  bright  and  forcible,  and  the  sentiments 
always  lofty,  and  we  have  no  doubt  it  seemed  very 
grand  to  the  youthful  audience.  It  is  taken  from 
her  reading,  with  no  touch  of  her  own  life  in  it.  This 
is  not  the  same  play  described  with  such  a  ludicrous 
finale  in  <l  Little  Women,"  although  the  heroine 
bears  the  same  favorite  name  of  Zara.  Her  own 
early  amusement  was,  however,  fully  in  her  mind 
when  she  wrote  that  scene,  which  is  true  to  fact. 

A  friend  and  relative  of  the  family  living  in  Rox- 
bury,  Dr.  Windship,  was  much  interested  in  the 
development  of  Louisa's  dramatic  talent.  The 
girls  always  enjoyed  delightful  visits  at  his  house. 

TJie  Sentimental  Period.  65 

He  tried  to  help  the  young  dramatist  to  public  suc-- 
cess,  and  writes  to  her  mother :  — 

I  have  offered  to  Mr.  Barry  of  the  Boston  Theatre 
Louisa's  "  Prima  Donnas."  He  is  very  much  pleased 
with  it  just  as  it  is,  and  will  bring  it  out  this  season  in 
good  style.  He  thinks  it  will  have  a  fine  run. 

Mrs.  Barry  and  Mrs.  Wood  consented  to  take 
the  principal  characters.  But  from  some  difficulty 
in  the  arrangements  "  The  Rival  Prima  Donnas" 
was  not  produced.  One  great  pleasure  was  gained, 
however,  as  Mr.  Barry  gave  her  a  free  pass  to  the 
theatre,  which  proved  a  source  of  constant  refresh- 
ment and  delight. 

Of  course  Louisa  was  eager  to  go  on  to  the  stage 
herself.  She  had  indeed  extraordinary  dramatic 
power,  and  could  at  any  time  quickly  transform 
herself  into  Hamlet,  and  recite  a  scene  with  tragic 
effect.  But  the  careful  mother  knew  better  than 
the  girl  the  trials  and  dangers  of  the  profession, 
and  dissuaded  her  from  it.  She  also  knew  how 
little  such  youthful  facility  of  expression  indi- 
cates the  power  which  will  make  a  great  actress. 
Louisa  has  reproduced  her  dramatic  experience  in 
<l  Work,"  which  gives  a  picture  faithful  in  spirit 
and  in  many  of  its  details  to  this  phase  of  her  life. 
She  here  indicates  a  knowledge  of  her  own  limi- 
tation of  talent.  "  Christie's  gala"  was  a  part  quite 
after  her  own  heart. 

A  farce,  called  "  Nat  Batchelor's  Pleasure  Trip; 
or,  The  Trials  of  a  Good-natured  Man,"  was  brought 
out  at  the  Howard  Athenaeum.  The  papers  of  the 
day  said  of  it:  "  It  is  a  creditable  first  attempt  at 


66  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

dramatic  composition,  and  received  frequent  ap- 
plause." Another  critic  says :  "  It  proved  a  full 
success."  This  performance,  however,  took  place 
in  1860,  —  a  later  period  than  that  of  which  I  am 
now  speaking. 

An  incident  which  occurred  at  this  representation 
probably  suggested  scenes  which  recur  in  "  Work  ' 
and  other  of  Miss  Alcott's  stories. 

Quite  a  hit  was  made  by  a  little  girl,  a  Miss  Jones, 
who,  having  to  speak  but  a  few  lines,  spoke  them  so  well 
that  upon  her  exit  she  received  the  rare  compliment  of  an 
enthusiastic  recall  from  the  audience,  despite  the  fact 
that  "  some  necessary  question  of  the  play  was  then  to  be 
considered."  For  the  time  being  she  certainly  was  the 
sensation  of  the  piece. 

Miss  Alcott  had  in  Dr.  Windship  a  kind  and 
judicious  helper  in  her  dramatic  undertakings,  with 
whom  she  kept  up  a  correspondence  under  the 
names  of  Beaumont  and  Fletcher. 

In  1851  Louisa  had  an  experience  which  she  has 
reproduced  in  her  story  called  "  How  I  Went  Out 
to  Service."  Her  mother's  work  among  the  poor 
of  Boston  led  to  her  being  applied  to  for  employ- 
ment, and  at  one  time  she  kept  a  regular  intelligence 
office.  A  gentleman  came  to  her  seeking  a  com- 
panion for  his  aged  father  and  sister,  who  was  to 
do  only  light  work,  and  to  be  treated  with  the 
greatest  respect  and  kindness.  As  Mrs.  Alcott  did 
not  readily  think  of  any  who  would  fill  the  place, 
the  impulsive  Louisa  suggested,  "  Why  could  n't  I 
go,  Mother  ?  '  She  went,  and  had  two  months  of 
disappointment  and  painful  experience  which  she 

The  Sentimental  Period.  67 

never  forgot.     She  wrote  out  the  story  which  was 
published  later,  called  "  How  I  Went  Out  to  Ser- 


The  story  has  an  important  lesson  for  those  who 
condemn  severely  young  girls  who  prefer  the  more 
independent  life  of  the  factory  or  shop  to  what 
is  considered  the  safety  and  comfort  of  service  in 
families.  If  a  girl  like  Louisa  Alcott,  belonging  to 
a  well-known,  highly  esteemed  family,  and  herself 
commanding  respect  by  her  abilities  and  character, 
could  be  treated  with  such  indignity  by  a  family  in 
which  no  one  would  have  feared  to  place  her,  how 
much  may  not  a  poor  unfriended  girl  be  called 
upon  to  endure ! 


1851.  —  We  went  to  a  meeting,  and  heard  splendid 
speaking  from  Phillips,  Channing,  and  others.      People 
were  much  excited,  and  cheered  "  Shadrack  and  liberty," 
groaned  for  "Webster  and  slavery,"  and  made  a  great 
noise.     I  felt  ready  to  do  anything,  —  fight  or  work,  hoot 
or  cry,  —  and  laid  plans  to  free  Simms.     I  shall  be  hor- 
ribly ashamed  of  my  country  if  this  thing  happens  and 
the  slave  is  taken  back. 

[He  was.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

1852.  —  High  Street,  Boston.  —  After  the   small-pox 
summer,  we  went  to  a  house  in  High  Street.     Mother 
opened  an  intelligence  office,  which  grew  out  of  her  city 
missionary  work  and   a  desire  to  find  places  for  good 
girls.     It  was  not  fit  work  for  her,  but  it  paid  ;  and  she 
always  did  what  came  to  her  in  the  way  of  duty  or  char- 
ity, and  let  pride,  taste,  and  comfort  suffer  for  love's 

68  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Anna  and  I  taught ;  Lizzie  was  our  little  housekeeper, 
—  our  angel  in  a  cellar  kitchen  •  May  went  to  school ; 
father  wrote  and  talked  when  he  could  get  classes  or 
conversations.  Our  poor  little  home  had  much  love  and 
happiness  in  it,  and  was  a  shelter  for  lost  girls,  abused 
wives,  friendless  children,  and  weak  or  wicked  men. 
Father  and  Mother  had  no  money  to  give,  but  gave 
them  time,  sympathy,  help  ;  and  if  blessings  would  make 
them  rich,  they  would  be  millionnaires.  This  is  practical 

My  first  story  was  printed,  and  $5  paid  for  it.  It  was 
written  in  Concord  when  I  was  sixteen.  Great  rubbish  ! 
Read  it  aloud  to  sisters,  and  when  they  praised  it,  not 
knowing  the  author,  I  proudly  announced  her  name. 

Made  a  resolution  to  read  fewer  novels,  and  those  only 
of  the  best.  List  of  books  I  like  :  — 

Carlyle's  French  Revolution  and  Miscellanies. 

Hero  and  Hero- Worship. 

Goethe's  poems,  plays,  and  novels. 

Plutarch's  Lives. 

Madame  Guion. 

Paradise  Lost  and  Comus. 

Schiller's  Plays. 

Madame  de  Stae'l. 


Louis  XIV. 

Jane  Eyre. 



Uncle  Sam. 

Emerson's  Poems. 

In  "  Little  Women  "  (p.  174),  she  has  told  a  story 
which  has  usually  been  supposed  to  represent  her 
first  success  in  literature ;  but  she  has  transferred 
the  incident  from  her  sister  to  her  own  representa- 

The  Sentimental  Period.  69 

tive,  Jo.  It  was  the  quiet  Anna  who  had  secretly 
written  a  story  and  fastened  it  inside  of  a  news- 
paper. She  read  it  to  her  mother  and  sisters,  as 
described  in  the  book,  and  was  very  much  de- 
lighted with  their  approbation  and  astonishment. 

1853.  —  In  January  I  started  a  little  school,  —  E.  W., 
W.  A.,  two  L's,  two  H's, —  about  a  dozen  in  our  parlor. 
In  May,  when  my  school  closed,  I  went  to  L.  as  second 
girl.     I  needed  the  change,  could  do  the  wash,  and  was 
glad  to  earn  my  $2  a  week.     Home  in  October  with  $34 
for  my  wages.     After  two  days'  rest,  began  school  again 
with  ten  children.     Anna  went  to    Syracuse   to   teach ; 
Father  to  the  West  to  try  his  luck,  —  so  poor,  so  hopeful, 
so   serene.      God   be  with   him  !      Mother  had  several 
boarders,  and  May  got  on  well  at  school.      Betty  was 
still  the  home  bird,  and  had  a  little  romance  with  C. 

Pleasant  letters  from  Father  and  Anna.  A  hard  year. 
Summer  distasteful  and  lonely  ;  winter  tiresome  with 
school  and  people  I  did  n't  like.  I  miss  Anna,  my  one 
bosom  friend  and  comforter. 

1854.  —  Pinckney  Street.  —  I  have  neglected  my  jour- 
nal for  months,  so   must  write    it  up.     School    for  me 
month   after  month.     Mother  busy  with   boarders   and 
sewing.     Father  doing  as  well  as  a  philosopher  can  in 
a  money-loving  world.     Anna  at  S. 

I  earned  a  good  deal  by  sewing  in  the  evening  when 
my  day's  work  was  done. 

In  February  Father  came  home.  Paid  his  way,  but  no 
more.  A  dramatic  scene  when  he  arrived  in  the  night. 
We  were  waked  by  hearing  the  bell.  Mother  flew  down, 
crying  "  My  husband  ! '  We  rushed  after,  and  five  white 
figures  embraced  the  half-frozen  wanderer  who  came  in 
hungry,  tired,  cold,  and  disappointed,  but  smiling  bravely 

Louisa  May  Alcott. 

and  as  serene  as  ever.  We  fed  and  warmed  and  brooded 
over  him,  longing  to  ask  if  he  had  made  any  money  ;  but 
no  one  did  till  little  May  said,  after  he  had  told  all  the 
pleasant  things,  "Well,  did  people  pay  you  ?"  Then, 
with  a  queer  look,  he  opened  his  pocket-book  and 
showed  one  dollar,  saying  with  a  smile  that  made  our 
eyes  fill,  <l  Only  that !  My  overcoat  was  stolen,  and  I 
had  to  buy  a  shawl.  Many  promises  were  not  kept,  and 
travelling  is  costly ;  but  I  have  opened  the  way,  and 
another  year  shall  do  better." 

I  shall  never  forget  how  beautifully  Mother  answered 
him,  though  the  dear,  hopeful  soul  had  built  much  on  his 
success ;  but  with  a  beaming  face  she  kissed  him,  saying, 
"  I  call  that  doing  very  well.  Since  you  are  safely  home, 
dear,  we  don't  ask  anything  more." 

Anna  and  I  choked  down  our  tears,  and  took  a  little 
lesson  in  real  love  which  we  never  forgot,  nor  the  look 
that  the  tired  man  and  the  tender  woman  gave  one 
another.  It  was  half  tragic  and  comic,  for  Father  was 
very  dirty  and  sleepy,  and  Mother  in  a  big  nightcap  and 
funny  old  jacket. 

[I  began  to  see  the  strong  contrasts  and  the  fun  and  follies 
in  every-day  life  about  this  time.  — L.  M.  A.] 

Anna  came  home  in  March.  Kept  our  school  all 
summer.  I  got  "  Flower  Fables ':  ready  to  print. 

Louisa  also  tried  service  with  a  relative  in  the 
country  for  a  short  time,  but  teaching,  sewing,  and 
writing  were  her  principal  occupations  during  this 
residence  in  Boston. 

These  seven  years,  from  Louisa's  sixteenth  to  her 
twenty-third  year,  might  be  called  an  apprentice- 
ship to  life.  She  tried  various  paths,  and  learned 
to  know  herself  and  the  world  about  her,  although 

The  Sentimental  Period.  71 

she  was  not  even  yet  certain  of  success  in  the 
way  which  finally  opened  before  her  and  led  her 
so  successfully  to  the  accomplishment  of  her  life- 
purpose.  She  tried  teaching,  without  satisfaction 
to  herself  or  perhaps  to  others.  The  kind  of  edu- 
cation she  had  herself  received  fitted  her  admirably 
to  understand  and  influence  children,  but  not  to 
carry  on  the  routine  of  a  school.  Sewing  was  her 
resource  when  nothing  else  offered,  but  it  is  almost 
pitiful  to  think  of  her  as  confined  to  such  work 
when  great  powers  were  lying  dormant  in  her 
mind.  Still,  Margaret  Fuller  said  that  a  year  of 
enforced  quiet  in  the  country  devoted  mainly  to 
sewing  was  very  useful  to  her,  since  she  reviewed 
and  examined  the  treasures  laid  up  in  her  memory; 
and  doubtless  Louisa  Alcott  thought  out  many  a 
story  which  afterward  delighted  the  world  while 
her  fingers  busily  plied  the  needle.  Yet  it  was  a 
great  deliverance  when  she  first  found  that  the 
products  of  her  brain  would  bring  in  the  needed 
money  for  family  support. 

L.  in  Boston  to  A.  in  Syracuse. 

THURSDAY,  27th. 

DEAREST  NAN,  —  I  was  so  glad  to  hear  from  you,  and 
hear  that  all  were  well. 

I  am  grubbing  away  as  usual,  trying  to  get  money 
enough  to  buy  Mother  a  nice  warm  shawl.  I  have  eleven 
dollars,  all  my  own  earnings,  —  five  for  a  story,  and  four 
for  the  pile  of  sewing  I  did  for  the  ladies  of  Dr.  Gray's 
society,  to  give  him  as  a  present. 

...  I  got  a  crimson  ribbon  for  a  bonnet  for  May,  and 

7 2  Loidsa  May  Alcott. 

I  took  my  straw  and  fixed  it  nicely  with  some  little  duds  I 
had.  Her  old  one  has  haunted  me  all  winter,  and  I  want 
her  to  look  neat.  She  is  so  graceful  and  pretty  and  loves 
beauty  so  much,  it  is  hard  for  her  to  be  poor  and  wear 
other  people's  ugly  things.  You  and  I  have  learned  not 
to  mind  much ;  but  when  I  think  of  her  I  long  to  dash 
out  and  buy  the  finest  hat  the  limited  sum  of  ten  dollars 
can  procure.  She  says  so  sweetly  in  one  of  her  letters  : 
"  It  is  hard  sometimes  to  see  other  people  have  so  many 
nice  things  and  I  so  few ;  but  I  try  not  to  be  envious,  but 
contented  with  my  poor  clothes,  and  cheerful  about  it." 
I  hope  the  little  dear  will  like  the  bonnet  and  the  frills 
I  made  her  and  some  bows  I  fixed  over  from  bright  rib- 
bons L.  W.  threw  away.  I  get  half  my  rarities  from  her 
rag-bag,  and  she  does  n't  know  her  own  rags  when  fixed 
over.  I  hope  I  shall  live  to  see  the  dear  child  in  silk 
and  lace,  with  plenty  of  pictures  and  "  bottles  of  cream," 
Europe,  and  all  she  longs  for. 

For  our  good  little  Betty,  who  is  wearing  all  the  old 
gowns  we  left,  I  shall  soon  be  able  to  buy  a  new  one,  and 
send  it  with  my  blessing  to  the  cheerful  saint.  She  writes 
me  the  funniest  notes,  and  tries  to  keep  the  old  folks 
warm  and  make  the  lonely  house  in  the  snowbanks  cosey 
and  bright. 

To  Father  I  shall  send  new  neckties  and  some  paper ; 
then  he  will  be  happy,  and  can  keep  on  with  the  beloved 
diaries  though  the  heavens  fall. 

Don't  laugh  at  my  plans ;  I  '11  carry  them  out,  if  I  go 
to  service  to  do  it.  Seeing  so  much  money  flying  about, 
I  long  to  honestly  get  a  little  and  make  my  dear  family 
more  comfortable.  I  feel  weak-minded  when  I  think  of 
all  they  need  and  the  little  I  can  do. 

Now  about  you  :  Keep  the  money  you  have  earned  by 
so  many  tears  and  sacrifices,  and  clothe  yourself;  for  it 

The  Sentimental  Period.  73 

makes  me  mad  to  know  that  my  good  little  lass  is  going 
round  in  shabby  things,  and  being  looked  down  upon  by 
people  who  are  not  worthy  to  touch  her  patched  shoes  or 
the  hem  of  her  ragged  old  gowns.  Make  yourself  tidy, 
and  if  any  is  left  over  send  it  to  Mother ;  for  there  are 
always  many  things  needed  at  home,  though  they  won't 
tell  us.  I  only  wish  I  too  by  any  amount  of  weeping 
and  homesickness  could  earn  as  much.  But  my  mite 
won't  come  amiss ;  and  if  tears  can  add  to  its  value,  I  've 
shed  my  quart,  —  first,  over  the  book  not  coming  out ;  for 
that  was  a  sad  blow,  and  I  waited  so  long  it  was  dreadful 
when  my  castle  in  the  air  came  tumbling  about  rny  ears. 
Pride  made  me  laugh  in  public ;  but  I  wailed  in  private, 
and  no  one  knew  it.  The  folks  at  home  think  I  rather 
enjoyed  it,  for  I  wrote  a  jolly  letter.  But  my  visit  was 
spoiled  ;  and  now  I  *m  digging  away  for  dear  life,  that  I 
may  not  have  come  entirely  in  vain.  I  did  n't  mean  to 
groan  about  it ;  but  my  lass  and  I  must  tell  some  one  our 
trials,  and  so  it  becomes  easy  to  confide  in  one  another. 
I  never  let  Mother  know  how  unhappy  you  were  in  S.  till 
Uncle  wrote. 

My  doings  are  not  much  this  week.  I  sent  a  little  tale 
to  the  "  Gazette,"  and  Clapp  asked  H.  W.  if  five  dollars 
would  be  enough.  Cousin  H.  said  yes,  and  gave  it  to  me, 
with  kind  words  and  a  nice  parcel  of  paper,  saying  in  his 
funny  way,  "  Now,  Lu,  the  door  is  open,  go  in  and  win." 
So  I  shall  try  to  do  it.  Then  cousin  L.  W.  said  Mr. 
B.  had  got  my  play,  and  told  her  that  if  Mrs.  B.  liked  it 
as  well,  it  must  be  clever,  and  if  it  did  n't  cost  too  much, 
he  would  bring  it  out  by  and  by.  Say  nothing  about  it 
yet.  Dr.  W.  tells  me  Mr.  F.  is  very  sick ;  so  the  farce 
cannot  be  acted  yet.  But  the  Doctor  is  set  on  its  com- 
ing out,  and  we  have  fun  about  it.  H.  W.  takes  me 
often  to  the  theatre  when  L.  is  done  with  me.  I  read  to 

74  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

her  all  the  P.  M.  often,  as  she  is  poorly,  and  in  that  way 
I  pay  my  debt  to  them. 

I  'm  writing  another  story  for  Clapp.  I  want  more 
fives,  and  mean  to  have  them  too. 

Uncle  wrote  that  you  were  Dr.  W.'s  pet  teacher,  and 
every  one  loved  you  dearly.  But  if  you  are  not  well, 
don't  stay.  Come  home,  and  be  cuddled  by  your 
old  Lu. 




SITTING  patient  in  the  shadow 

Till  the  blessed  light  shall  come, 
A  serene  and  saintly  presence 

Sanctifies  our  troubled  home. 
Earthly  joys  and  hopes  and  sorrows 

Break  like  ripples  on  the  strand 
Of  the  deep  and  solemn  river, 

Where  her  willing  feet  now  stand. 

O  my  sister,  passing  from  me 

Out  of  human  care  and  strife, 
Leave  me  as  a  gift  those  virtues 

Which  have  beautified  your  life. 
Dear,  bequeath  me  that  great  patience 

Which  has  power  to  sustain 
A  cheerful,  uncomplaining  spirit 

In  its  prison-house  of  pain. 

Give  me  —  for  I  need  it  sorely  — 

Of  that  courage,  wise  and  sweet, 
Which  has  made  the  path  of  duty 

Green  beneath  your  willing  feet. 
Give  me  that  unselfish  nature 

That  with  charity  divine 
Can  pardon  wrong  for  love's  dear  sake, 

Meek  heart,  forgive  me  mine  ! 

Thus  our  parting  daily  loseth 
Something  of  its  bitter  pain, 

And  while  learning  this  hard  lesson 
My  great  loss  becomes  my  gain  ; 

76  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

For  the  touch  of  grief  will  render 

My  wild  nature  more  serene, 
Give  to  life  new  aspirations, 

A  new  trust  in  the  unseen. 

Henceforth  safe  across  the  river 

I  shall  see  forevermore 
A  beloved  household  spirit 

Waiting  for  me  on  the  shore ; 
Hope  and  faith,  born  of  my  sorrow, 

Guardian  angels  shall  become  ; 
And  the  sister  gone  before  me 

By  their  hands  shall  lead  me  home. 

WHEN  only  twenty-two  years  old  Miss  Alcott 
began  her  career  of  authorship  by  launch- 
ing a  little  flower  bark,  which  floated  gaily  on  the 
stream.  She  had  always  written  poems,  plays,  and 
stories  for  her  own  and  her  friends'  pleasure,  and 
now  she  gathered  up  some  tales  she  had  written 
for  Mr.  Emerson's  daughter,  and  published  them 
under  the  name  of  "  Flower  Fables."  She  received 
the  small  amount  of  thirty-two  dollars  for  the  book ; 
but  it  gave  her  the  great  satisfaction  of  having 
earned  it  by  work  that  she  loved,  and  which  she 
could  do  well.  She  began  to  have  applications  for 
stories  from  the  papers ;  but  as  yet  sewing  and 
teaching  paid  better  than  writing.  While  she  sewed 
her  brain  was  busy  with  plans  of  poems,  plays,  and 
tales,  which  she  made  use  of  at  a  later  period. 

The  following  letter  to  her  mother  shows  how 
closely  she  associated  her  with  this  early  suc- 
cess :  — 

20   PlNCKNEY  STREET,  BOSTON,  Dec.  25,  1854. 

(With  "  Flower  Fables.") 

DEAR  MOTHER,  —  Into  your  Christmas  stocking  I 
have  put  my  "  first-born,"  knowing  that  you  will  accept 

Authorship.  77 

it  with  all  its  faults  (for  grandmothers  are  always  kind), 
and  look  upon  it  merely  as  an  earnest  of  what  I  may  yet 
do ;  for,  with  so  much  to  cheer  me  on,  I  hope  to  pass  in 
time  from  fairies  and  fables  to  men  and  realities. 

Whatever  beauty  or  poetry  is  to  be  found  in  my  little 
book  is  owing  to  your  interest  in  and  encouragement  of 
all  my  efforts  from  the  first  to  the  last ;  and  if  ever  I  do 
anything  to  be  proud  of,  my  greatest  happiness  will  be 
that  I  can  thank  you  for  that,  as  I  may  do  for  all  the  good 
there  is  in  me  ;  and  I  shall  be  content  to  write  if  it  gives 
you  pleasure. 

Jo  5s  fussing  about ; 
My  lamp  is  going  out. 

To  dear  mother,  with  many  kind  wishes  for  a  happy 
New  Year  and  merry  Christmas. 

I  am  ever  your  loving  daughter 


This  letter  shows  that  she  had  already  begun  to 
see  that  she  must  study  not  only  fairies  and  fan- 
cies, but  men  and  realities ;  and  she  now  began  to 
observe  life,  not  in  books,  but  as  it  went  on  around 
her.  In  the  intense  excitement  of  the  anti-slavery 
struggles  of  that  period  she  might  well  learn  how 
full  of  dramatic  situations  and  the  elements  of  both 
tragedy  and  comedy  real  human  life  is.  She  says  : 
"  I  began  to  see  the  strong  contrasts  and  fun  and 
frolic  in  every  day  life  about  this  time."  She  also 
considered  her  reading,  and  tried  to  make  it  more 
thorough  and  profitable ;  and  she  did  not  "  waste 
even  ink  on  poems  and  fancies,"  but  planned  stories, 
that  everything  might  help  toward  her  great  ob- 
ject of  earning  support  for  her  family. 

78  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

In  June,  1855,  Miss  Alcott  went  to  Walpole, 
N.  H.,  where  she  had  a  free  life  among  the  hills 
for  a  few  months.  It  must  have  been  a  great  re- 
freshment to  her  after  the  winter's  work  in  the  city. 
In  July  the  family  followed  her  thither,  and  occu- 
pied a  small  house.  The  country  life  and  joy  soon 
began  to  find  expression,  and  she  wrote  a  little 
story  called  "  King  Goldenrod,"  which  she  says 
"  ought  to  be  fresh  and  true,"  as  written  at  that  beau- 
tiful time  and  place.  But  this  pleasant  country  life 
was  for  a  short  season  only ;  and  in  chill  November 
she  set  out  for  the  city,  with  brave  heart  and  scanty 
outfit,  to  seek  her  fortune  once  more.  While  still 
continuing  to  sew  as  a  means  of  livelihood,  she 
began  to  try  a  great  variety  of  literary  ventures. 
She  wrote  notices  of  books  for  the  papers,  and  at 
one  time  got  five  dollars  for  a  story,  besides  twelve 
dollars  for  sewing.  The  following  year  the  pub- 
lishers began  to  find  out  the  value  of  her  work,  and 
to  call  for  more  stories.  Even  her  poems  were  ac- 
cepted. Little  Nell  was  then  the  favorite  heroine 
of  Dickens,  and  Louisa's  poem  on  that  subject  was 
published  in  the  "  Courier."  Although  she  at  first 
enjoyed  the  beautiful  scenery  of  Walpole,  she  found 
the  dull  little  town  did  not  offer  her  the  opportuni- 
ties for  work  that  she  needed ;  and  leaving  her 
family  there,  she  came  down  to  Boston  to  seek  her 
fortune,  and  went  to  the  well-known  boarding- 
house  of  Mrs.  David  Reed  on  Chauncey  Street. 
The  happy  home  which  she  had  here  during  the 
winter  is  represented  as  Mrs.  Kirke's  house  in 
"  Little  Women,"  and  Jo's  garret  is  the  sky-parlor  in 
which  she  lived  and  wrote.  She  had  a  rich  winter, 

A  uthorship.  79 

hearing  many  of  the  finest  lectures,  and  enjoying 
her  free  pass  to  the  theatre.  One  of  her  greatest 
helps,  however,  was  the  friendship  of  Theodore 
Parker,  who  took  great  interest  in  her  struggles, 
and  wisely  strengthened  and  encouraged  her.  She 
loved  to  go  to  his  Sunday  evening  receptions,  and 
sit  quietly  watching  the  varied  company  who  col- 
lected there ;  and  a  word  or  pressure  of  the  hand 
from  her  host  was  enough  to  cheer  her  for  the 
whole  week.  She  has  gratefully  recorded  this  in- 
fluence in  her  sketch  of  Mr.  Power  in  "Work;  ' 
but  she  has  not  given  to  that  delineation  the  strik- 
ing personality  of  her  subject  which  we  should 
have  expected  of  her.  She  then  perhaps  looked  up 
to  him  too  much  to  take  note  of  the  rich  elements 
of  wit  and  humor  in  his  nature,  and  has  painted  him 
wholly  seriously,  and  with  a  colorless  brush. 


Twenfy-tzvo  Years  Old. 

PIXCKXEY  STREET,  BOSTON,  y<z«.  i,  1855.  —  The  prin- 
cipal event  of  the  winter  is  the  appearance  of  my  book 
"  Flower  Fables."  An  edition  of  sixteen  hundred.  It 
has  sold  very  well,  and  people  seem  to  like  it.  I  feel 
quite  proud  that  the  little  tales  that  I  wrote  for  Ellen  E. 
when  I  was  sixteen  should  now  bring  money  and  fame. 

I  will  put  in  some  of  the  notices  as  "  varieties." 
Mothers  are  always  foolish  over  their  first-born. 

Miss  Wealthy  Stevens  paid  for  the  book,  and  I  re- 
ceived $32. 

[A  pleasing  contrast  to  the  receipts  of  six  months  only  in 
1886,  being  $8000  for  the  sale  of  books,  and  no  new  one  ; 
but  I  was  prouder  over  the  $32  than  the  $8000.  --L.  M.  A., 

So  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

April,  1855.  —  I  am  in  the  garret  with  my  papers 
round  me,  and  a  pile  of  apples  to  eat  while  I  write  my 
journal,  plan  stories,  and  enjoy  the  patter  of  rain  on  the 
roof,  in  peace  and  quiet. 

[Jo  in  the  garret.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

Being  behindhand,  as  usual,  I  '11  make  note  of  the 
main  events  up  to  date,  for  I  don't  waste  ink  in  poetry 
and  pages  of  rubbish  now.  I  Ve  begun  to  live,  and  have 
no  time  for  sentimental  musing. 

In  October  I  began  my  school ;  Father  talked,  Mother 
looked  after  her  boarders,  and  tried  to  help  everybody. 
Anna  was  in  Syracuse  teaching  Mrs.  S 's  children. 

My  book  came  out ;  and  people  began  to  think  that 
topsey-turvey  Louisa  would  amount  to  something  after 
all,  since  she  could  do  so  well  as  housemaid,  teacher, 
seamstress,  and  story-teller.  Perhaps  she  may. 

In  February  I  wrote  a  story  for  which  C.  paid  $5,  and 
asked  for  more. 

In  March  I  wrote  a  farce  for  W.  Warren,  and  Dr.  W. 
offered  it  to  him ;  but  W.  W.  was  too  busy. 

Also  began  another  tale,  but  found  little  time  to  work 
on  it,  with  school,  sewing,  and  house-work.  My  winter's 
earnings  are,  — 

School,  one  quarter $50 

Sewing $50 

Stories $20 

if  I  am  ever  paid. 

A  busy  and  a  pleasant  winter,  because,  though  hard 
at  times,  I  do  seem  to  be  getting  on  a  little ;  and  that 
encourages  me. 

Have  heard  Lowell  and  Hedge  lecture,  acted  in  plays, 
and  thanks  to  our  rag-money  and  good  cousin  H.,  have 
been  to  the  theatre  several  times,  —  always  my  great  joy. 

Authors] tip.  81 

Summer  plans  are  yet  unsettled.  Father  wants  to  go 
to  England  :  not  a  wise  idea,  I  think.  We  shall  prob- 
ably stay  here,  and  A.  and  I  go  into  the  country  as  gov- 
ernesses. It  's  a  queer  way  to  live,  but  dramatic,  and  I 
rather  like  it ;  for  we  never  know  what  is  to  come  next. 
We  are  real  "  Micawbers,"  and  always  "  ready  for  a 

I  have  planned  another  Christmas  book,  and  hope  to 
be  able  to  write  it. 

1855.  —  Cousin  L.  W.  asks  me  to  pass  the  summer  at 
Walpole  with  her.  If  I  can  get  no  teaching,  I  shall 
go ;  for  I  long  for  the  hills,  and  can  write  my  fairy  tales 

I  delivered  my  burlesque  lecture  on  "  Woman,  and  Her 
Position ;  by  Oronthy  Bluggage,"  last  evening  at  Deacon 
G.'s.  Had  a  merry  time,  and  was  asked  by  Mr.  W.  to 
do  it  at  H.  for  money.  Read  "  Hamlet '  at  our  club, 
—  my  favorite  play.  Saw  Mrs.  W.  H.  Smith  about  the 
farce  ;  says  she  will  do  it  at  her  benefit. 

May.  —  Father  went  to  C.  to  talk  with  Mr.  Emerson 
about  the  England  trip.  I  am  to  go  to  Walpole.  I  have 
made  my  own  gowns,  and  had  money  enough  to  fit  up 
the  girls.  So  glad  to  be  independent. 

[I  wonder  if  $40  fitted  up  the  whole  family.  Perhaps  so, 
as  my  wardrobe  was  made  up  of  old  clothes  from  cousins  and 
friends.  —  L.  at.  A.] 

WALPOLE,  N.  H.,  June,  1855.  —  Pleasant  journey  and 
a  kind  welcome.  Lovely  place,  high  among  the  hills. 
So  glad  to  run  and  skip  in  the  woods  and  up  the  splendid 
ravine.  Shall  write  here,  I  know. 

Helped  cousin  L.  in  her  garden ;  and  the  smell  of 
the  fresh  earth  and  the  touch  of  green  leaves  did  me 


82  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Mr.  T.  came  and  praised  my  first  book,  so  I  felt  much 
inspired  to  go  and  do  another.  I  remember  him  at 
Scituate  years  ago,  when  he  was  a  young  ship-builder  and 
I  a  curly-haired  hoyden  of  five  or  six. 

Up  at  five,  and  had  a  lovely  run  in  the  ravine,  seeing 
the  woods  wake.  Planned  a  little  tale  which  ought  to  be 
fresh  and  true,  as  it  came  at  that  hour  and  place,  — 
"King  Goldenrod."  Have  lively  days,  —  writing  in 
A.  M.,  driving  in  p.  M.,  and  fun  in  eve.  My  visit  is  doing 
me  much  good. 

July,  1855.-  -Read  "Hyperion."  On  the  i6th  the 
family  came  to  live  in  Mr.  W.'s  house  rent  free.  No 
better  plan  offered,  and  we  were  all  tired  of  the  city. 
Here  Father  can  have  a  garden ;  Mother  can  rest  and  be 
near  her  good  niece  ;  the  children  have  freedom  and  fine 
air;  and  A.  and  I  can  go  from  here  to  our  teaching, 
wherever  it  may  be. 

Busy  and  happy  times  as  we  settle  in  the  little  house 
in  the  lane  near  by  my  dear  ravine,  —  plays,  picnics, 
pleasant  people,  and  good  neighbors.  Fanny  Kemble 
came  up,  Mrs.  Kirkland  and  others,  and  Dr.  Bellows 
is  the  gayest  of  the  gay.  We  acted  the  "Jacobite," 
"  Rivals,"  and  "  Bonnycastles,"  to  an  audience  of  a  hun- 
dred, and  were  noticed  in  the  Boston  papers.  H.  T. 
was  our  manager,  and  Dr.  B.,  D.  D.,  our  dramatic  direc- 
tor. Anna  was  the  star,  her  acting  being  really  very 
fine.  I  did  "  Mrs.  Malaprop,"  "  Widow  Pottle,"  and  the 
old  ladies. 

Finished  fairy  book  in  September.  Anna  had  an  offer 
from  Dr.  Wilbur  of  Syracuse  to  teach  at  the  great  idiot 
asylum.  She  disliked  it,  but  decided  to  go.  Poor  dear  ! 
so  beauty-loving,  timid,  and  tender.  It  is  a  hard  trial ; 
but  she  is  so  self-sacrificing  she  tries  to  like  it  because  it 
is  duty. 

Autfiorship.  83 

October.  —  A.  to  Syracuse.  May  illustrated  my  book, 
and  tales  called  "  Christmas  Elves."  Better  than  "  Flower 
Fables."  Now  I  must  try  to  sell  it. 

[Innocent  Louisa,  to  think  that  a  Christmas  book  could 
be  sold  in  October.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

November.  —  Decided  to  seek  my  fortune  ;  so,  with 
my  little  trunk  of  home-made  clothes,  $20  earned  by 
stories  sent  to  the  "  Gazette,"  and  my  MSS.,  I  set  forth 
with  Mother's  blessing  one  rainy  day  in  the  dullest  month 
in  the  year. 

[My   birth-month  ;    always    to   be   a   memorable   one.  — 

L.  M.  A.] 

Found  it  too  late  to  do  anything  with  the  book,  so  put 
it  away  and  tried  for  teaching,  sewing,  or  any  honest 
work.  Won't  go  home  to  sit  idle  while  I  have  a  head 
and  pair  of  hands. 

December.  —  H.  and  L.  W.  very  kind,  and  my  dear 
cousins  the  Sewalls  take  me  in.  I  sew  for  Mollie  and 
others,  and  write  stories.  C.  gave  me  books  to  notice. 
Heard  Thackeray.  Anxious  times  ;  Anna  very  home-sick. 
Walpole  very  cold  and  dull  now  the  summer  butterflies 
have  gone.  Got  $5  for  a  tale  and  $12  for  sewing;  sent 
home  a  Christmas-box  to  cheer  the  dear  souls  in  the 

January,  1856.  —  C.  paid  $6  for  "A  Sister's  Trial," 
gave  me  more  books  to  notice,  and  wants  more  tales. 

[Should  think  he  would  at  that  price.  -  -  L.  M.  A.] 

Sewed  for  L.  \V.  Sewall  and  others.  Mr.  J.  M.  Field 
took  my  farce  to  Mobile  to  bring  out ;  Mr.  Barry  of  the 
Boston  Theatre  has  the  play. 

Heard  Curtis  lecture.  Began  a  book  for  summer,  — 
"  Beach  Bubbles."  Mr.  F.  of  the  "  Courier  "  printed  a 

84  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

poem  of  mine  on  "  Little  Nell."  Got  $10  for  "  Bertha," 
and  saw  great  yellow  placards  stuck  up  announcing  it. 
Acted  at  the  W.'s. 

March.-  -Got  $10  for  "  Genevieve."  Prices  go  up, 
as  people  like  the  tales  and  ask  who  wrote  them.  Fin- 
ished "Twelve  Bubbles."  Sewed  a  great  deal,  and  got 
very  tired ;  one  job  for  Mr.  G.  of  a  dozen  pillow-cases, 
one  dozen  sheets,  six  fine  cambric  neckties,  and  two 
dozen  handkerchiefs',  at  which  I  had  to  work  all  one 
night  to  get  them  done,  as  they  were  a  gift  to  him.  I 
got  only  $4. 

Sewing  won't  make  my  fortune  ;  but  I  can  plan  my 
stories  while  I  work,  and  then  scribble  'em  down  on 

Poem  on  "  Little  Paul ;  "  Curtis's  lecture  on  "  Dickens  ' 
made  it  go  well.     Hear  Emerson  on  "  England." 

May.  —  Anna  came  on  her  way  home,  sick  and  worn 
out ;  the  work  was  too  much  for  her.  We  had  some 
happy  days  visiting  about.  Could  not  dispose  of  B.  B. 
in  book  form,  but  C.  took  them  for  his  paper.  Mr.  Field 
died,  so  the  farce  fell  through  there.  Altered  the  play 
for  Mrs.  Barrow  to  bring  out  next  winter. 

June,  1856.  —  Home,  to  find  dear  Betty  very  ill  with 
scarlet-fever  caught  from  some  poor  children  Mother 
nursed  when  they  fell  sick,  living  over  a  cellar  where 
pigs  had  been  kept.  The  landlord  (a  deacon)  would 
not  clean  the  place  till  Mother  threatened  to  sue  him 
for  allowing  a  nuisance.  Too  late  to  save  two  of  the 
poor  babies  or  Lizzie  and  May  from  the  fever. 

[L.   never  recovered,  but  died   of  it  two  years  later. - 
L.  M.  A.] 

An  anxious  time.  I  nursed,  did  house-work,  and  wrote 
a  story  a  month  through  the  summer. 

Dr.  Bellows  and  Father  had  Sunday  eve  conversations. 

Authorship.  85 

October.  —  Pleasant  letters  from  Father,  who  went  on 
a  tour  to  N.  Y.,  Philadelphia,  and  Boston. 

Made  plans  to  go  to  Boston  for  the  winter,  as  there  is 
nothing  to  do  here,  and  there  I  can  support  myself  and 
help  the  family.  C.  offers  10  dollars  a  month,  and  perhaps 
more.  L.  W.,  M.  S.,  and  others,  have  plenty  of  sewing ; 
the  play  may  come  out,  and  Mrs.  R.  will  give  me  a  sky- 
parlor  for  $3  a  week,  with  fire  and  board.  I  sew  for 
her  also. 

If  I  can  get  A.  L.  to  governess  I  shall  be  all  right. 

I  was  born  with  a  boy's  spirit  under  my  bib  and  tucker. 
I  can't  a/a// when  I  can  work;  so  I  took  my  little  talent 
in  my  hand  and  forced  the  world  again,  braver  than 
before  and  wiser  for  my  failures. 

[Jo  in  N.  Y.  --L.  M.  A.] 

I  don't  often  pray  in  words ;  but  when  I  set  out  that 
day  with  all  my  worldly  goods  in  the  little  old  trunk,  my 
own  earnings  ($25)  in  my  pocket,  and  much  hope  and 
resolution  in  my  soul,  my  heart  was  very  full,  and  I  said 
to  the  Lord,  "  Help  us  all,  and  keep  us  for  one  another," 
as  I  never  said  it  before,  while  I  looked  back  at  the  dear 
faces  watching  me,  so  full  of  love  and  hope  and  faith. 


BOSTON,  November,  1856.  Mrs.  David  Reed's.  —  I 
find  my  little  room  up  in  the  attic  very  cosey,  and  a 
house  full  of  boarders  very  amusing  to  study.  Mrs. 
Reed  very  kind.  Fly  round  and  take  C.  his  stories. 
Go  to  see  Mrs.  L.  about  A.  Don't  want  me.  A  blow, 
but  I  cheer  up  and  hunt  for  sewing.  Go  to  hear  Parker, 
and  he  does  me  good.  Asks  me  to  come  Sunday  eve- 
nings to  his  house.  I  did  go  there,  and  met  Phillips, 
Garrison,  Hedge,  and  other  great  men,  and  sit  in  my 
corner  weekly,  staring  and  enjoying  myself. 

86  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

When  I  went  Mr.  Parker  said,  "  God  bless  you,  Louisa  ; 
come  again  ; '  and  the  grasp  of  his  hand  gave  me  cour- 
age to  face  another  anxious  week. 

November  ^d. —  Wrote  all  the  morning.  In  the  P.M. 
went  to  see  the  Sumner  reception  as  he  comes  home 
after  the  Brooks  affair.  I  saw  him  pass  up  Beacon 
Street,  pale  and  feeble,  but  smiling  and  bowing.  I 
rushed  to  Hancock  Street,  and  was  in  time  to  see  him 
bring  his  proud  old  mother  to  the  window  when  the 
crowd  gave  three  cheers  for  her.  I  cheered  too,  and 
was  very  much  excited.  Mr.  Parker  met  him  somewhere 
before  the  ceremony  began,  and  the  above  P.  cheered 
like  a  boy  ;  and  Sumner  laughed  and  nodded  as  his  friend 
pranced  and  shouted,  bareheaded  and  beaming. 

My  kind  cousin,  L.  W.,  got  tickets  for  a  course  of  lec- 
tures on  "Italian  Literature,"  and  seeing  my  old  cloak  sent 
me  a  new  one,  with  other  needful  and  pretty  things  such 
as  girls  love  to  have.  I  shall  never  forget  how  kind  she 
has  always  been  to  me. 

November  $th. — Went  with  H.  W.  to  see  Manager 
Barry  about  the  everlasting  play  which  is  always  coming 
out  but  never  comes.  We  went  all  over  the  great  new 
theatre,  and  I  danced  a  jig  on  the  immense  stage.  Mr. 
B.  was  very  kind,  and  gave  me  a  pass  to  come  whenever 
I  liked.  This  was  such  richness  I  did  n't  care  if  the  play 
was  burnt  on  the  spot,  and  went  home  full  of  joy.  In 
the  eve  I  saw  La  Grange  as  Norma,  and  felt  as  if  I 
knew  all  about  that  place.  Quite  stage-struck,  and  imag- 
ined myself  in  her  place,  with  white  robes  and  oak-leaf 

November  6th.  —  Sewed  happily  on  my  job  of  twelve 
sheets  for  H.  W.,  and  put  lots  of  good  will  into  the  work 
after  his  kindness  to  me. 

Walked   to  Roxbury  to  see  cousin  Dr.  W.  about  the 

Authorship.  87 

play  and  tell  the  fine  news.    Rode  home  in  the  new  cars, 
and  found  them  very  nice. 

In  the  eve  went  to  teach  at  Warren  Street  Chapel 
Charity  School.  I  '11  help  as  I  am  helped,  if  I  can. 
Mother  says  no  one  so  poor  he  can't  do  a  little  for  some 
one  poorer  yet. 

Sunday.  —  Heard  Parker  on  "  Individuality  of  Char- 
acter," and  liked  it  much.  In  the  eve  I  went  to  his 
house.  Mrs.  Howe  was  there,  and  Sumner  and  others. 
I  sat  in  my  usual  corner,  but  Mr.  P.  carne  up  and  said, 
in  that  cordial  way  of  his,  "Well,  child,  how  goes  it?': 
"  Pretty  well,  sir."  "  That 's  brave  ; '  and  with  his  warm 
hand-shake  he  went  on,  leaving  me  both  proud  and 
happy,  though  I  have  my  trials.  He  is  like  a  great  fire 
where  all  can  come  and  be  warmed  and  comforted. 
Bless  him  ! 

Had  a  talk  at  tea  about  him,  and  fought  for  him  when 
W.  R.  said  he  was  not  a  Christian.  He  «is  my  sort;  for 
though  he  may  lack  reverence  for  other  people's  God, 
he  works  bravely  for  his  own,  and  turns  his  back  on  no 
one  who  needs  help,  as  some  of  the  pious  do. 

Monday,  i^th.  —  May  came  full  of  expectation  and 
joy  to  visit  good  aunt  B.  and  study  drawing.  We  walked 
about  and  had  a  good  home  talk,  then  my  girl  went  off 
to  Auntie's  to  begin  what  I  hope  will  be  a  pleasant  and 
profitable  winter.  She  needs  help  to  develop  her  talent, 
and  I  can't  give  it  to  her. 

Went  to  see  Forrest  as  Othello.  It  is  funny  to  see 
how  attentive  all  the  once  cool  gentlemen  are  to  Miss 
Alcott  now  she  has  a  pass  to  the  new  theatre. 

November  29 th.  —  My  birthday.  Felt  forlorn  so  far 
from  home.  Wrote  all  day.  Seem  to  be  getting  on 
slowly,  so  should  be  contented.  To  a  little  party  at  the 
B.'s  in  the  eve.  May  looked  very  pretty,  and  seemed 

88  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

to  be  a  favorite.  The  boys  teased  me  about  being  an 
authoress,  and  I  said  I  'd  be  famous  yet.  Will  if  I  can, 
but  something  else  may  be  better  for  me. 

Found  a  pretty  pin  from  Father  and  a  nice  letter  when 
I  got  home.  Mr.  H.  brought  them  with  letters  from 
Mother  and  Betty,  so  I  went  to  bed  happy. 

December.  -  -  Busy  with  Christmas  and  New  Year's 
tales.  Heard  a  good  lecture  by  E.  P.  Whipple  on 
"  Courage."  Thought  I  needed  it,  being  rather  tired  of 
living  like  a  spider,  -  -  spinning  my  brains  out  for  money. 

Wrote  a  story,  "  The  Cross  on  the  Church  Tower," 
suggested  by  the  tower  before  my  window. 

Called  on  Mrs.  L.,  and  she  asked  me  to  come  and 
teach  A.  for  three  hours  each  day.  Just  what  I  wanted  ; 
and  the  children's  welcome  was  very  pretty  and  com- 
forting to  "  Our  Oily,"  as  they  call  me. 

Now  board  is  all  safe,  and  something  over  for  home,  if 
stories  and  sewing  fail.  I  don't  do  much,  but  can  send 
little  comforts  to  Mother  and  Betty,  and  keep  May  neat. 

December  i8t/i.  —  Begin  with  A.  L.,  in  Beacon  Street. 
I  taught  C.  when  we  lived  in  High  Street,  A.  in  Pinckney 
Street,  and  now  Al. ;  so  I  seem  to  be  an  institution  and  a 
success,  since  I  can  start  the  boy,  teach  one  girl,  and 
take  care  of  the  little  invalid.  It  is  hard  work,  but  I  can 
do  it ;  and  am  glad  to  sit  in  a  large,  fine  room  part  of 
each  day,  after  my  sky-parlor,  which  has  nothing  pretty 
in  it,  and  only  the  gray  tower  and  blue  sky  outside  as  I 
sit  at  the  window  writing.  I  love  luxury,  but  freedom 
and  independence  better. 

To  her  Father,  written  from  Mrs.  Reed '  s. 

BOSTON,  Nov.  29,  1856. 

DEAREST  FATHER,  —  Your  little  parcel  was  very  wel- 
come to  me  as  I  sat  alone  in  my  room,  with  snow  falling 

Authorship.  89 

fast  outside,  and  a  few  tears  in  (for  birthdays  are  dismal 
times  to  me)  ;  and  the  fine  letter,  the  pretty  gift,  and, 
most  of  all,  the  loving  thought  so  kindly  taken  for  your 
old  absent  daughter,  made  the  cold,  dark  day  as  warm 
and  bright  as  summer  to  me. 

And  now,  with  the  birthday  pin  upon  my  bosom,  many 
thanks  on  my  lips,  and  a  whole  heart  full  of  love  for  its 
giver,  I  will  tell  you  a  little  about  my  doings,  stupid  as 
they  will  seem  after  your  own  grand  proceedings.  How  I 
wish  I  could  be  with  you,  enjoying  what  I  have  always 
longed  for,  —  fine  people,  fine  amusements,  and  fine 
books.  But  as  I  can't,  I  am  glad  you  are ;  for  I  love  to 
see  your  name  first  among  the  lecturers,  to  hear  it  kindly 
spoken  of  in  papers  and  inquired  about  by  good  people 
here,  —  to  say  nothing  of  the  delight  and  pride  I  take  in 
seeing  you  at  last  filling  the  place  you  are  so  fitted  for, 
and  which  you  have  waited  for  so  long  and  patiently. 
If  the  New  Yorkers  raise  a  statue  to  the  modern  Plato, 
it  will  be  a  wise  and  highly  creditable  action. 


I  am  very  well  and  very  happy.  Things  go  smoothly, 
and  I  think  I  shall  come  out  right,  and  prove  that  though 
an  Alcott  I  can  support  myself.  I  like  the  independent 
feeling ;  and  though  not  an  easy  life,  it  is  a  free  one,  and 
I  enjoy  it.  I  can't  do  much  with  my  hands ;  so  I  will 
make-  a  battering-ram  of  my  head  and  make  a  way  through 
this  rough-and-tumble  world.  I  have  very  pleasant  lec- 
tures to  amuse  my  evenings,  —  Professor  Gajani  on 
"  Italian  Reformers,"  the  Mercantile  Library  course, 
Whipple,  Beecher,  and  others,  and,  best  of  all,  a  free  pass 
at  the  Boston  Theatre.  I  saw  Mr.  Barry,  and  he  gave  it 
to  me  with  many  kind  speeches,  and  promises  to  bring 
out  the  play  very  soon.  I  hope  he  will. 

My  farce   is  in  the  hands  of  Mrs.  W.  H.  Smith,  who 

90  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

acts  at  Laura  Keene's  theatre  in  New  York.  She  took 
it,  saying  she  would  bring  it  out  there.  If  you  see  or 
hear  anything  about  it,  let  me  know.  I  want  something 
doing.  My  mornings  are  spent  in  writing.  C.  takes  one 
a  month,  and  I  am  to  see  Mr.  B.,  who  may  take  some  of 
my  wares. 

In  the  afternoons  I  walk  and  visit  my  hundred  rela- 
tions, who  are  all  kind  and  friendly,  and  seem  interested 
in  our  various  successes. 

Sunday  evenings  I  go  to  Parker's  parlor,  and  there  meet 
Phillips,  Garrison,  Scherb,  Sanborn,  and  many  other  pleas- 
ant people.  All  talk,  and  I  sit  in  a  corner  listening,  and 
wishing  a  certain  placid  gray-haired  gentleman  was  there 
talking  too.  Mrs.  Parker  calls  on  me,  reads  my  stories, 
and  is  very  good  to  me.  Theodore  asks  Louisa  "  how 
her  worthy  parents  do,"  and  is  otherwise  very  friendly  to 
the  large,  bashful  girl  who  adorns  his  parlor  steadily. 

Abby  is  preparing  for  a  busy  and,  I  hope,  a  profitable 
winter.  She  has  music  lessons  already,  French  and  draw- 
ing in  store,  and,  if  her  eyes  hold  out,  will  keep  her  word 
and  become  what  none  of  us  can  be,  "  an  accomplished 
Alcott."  Now,  dear  Father,  I  shall  hope  to  hear  from 
you  occasionally,  and  will  gladly  answer  all  epistles  from 
the  Plato  whose  parlor  parish  is  becoming  quite  famous. 
I  got  the  "Tribune,"  but  not  the  letter,  and  shall  look  it 
up.  I  have  been  meaning  to  write,  but  did  not  know 
where  you  were. 

Good-by,  and  a  happy  birthday  from  your  ever  loving 
child,  LOUISA. 



Twenty-four  Years  Old. 

January,  1857.-  -Had  my  first  new  silk  dress  from 
good  little  L.  W.,  -  -  very  fine ;  and  I  felt  as  if  all  the 

Authorship.  91 

Hancocks  and   Quincys  beheld   me    as    I  went   to  two 
parties  in  it  on  New  Year's  eve. 

A  busy,  happy  month,  -  -  taught,  wrote,  sewed,  read 
aloud  to  the  "  little  mother,"  and  went  often  to  the 

'          X 

theatre  •    heard  good  lectures ;  and  enjoyed  my  Parker 
evenings  very  much. 

Father  came  to  see  me  on  his  way  home ;  little 
money ;  had  had  a  good  time,  and  was  asked  to  come 
again.  Why  don't  rich  people  who  enjoy  his  talk  pay 
for  it?  Philosophers  are  always  poor,  and  too  modest  to 
pass  round  their  own  hats. 

Sent  by  him  a  good  bundle  to  the  poor  Forlornites 
among  the  ten-foot  drifts  in  W. 

February.-  -Ran  home  as  a  valentine  on  the  i4th. 

March.  —  Have  several  irons  in  the  fire  now,  and  try 
to  keep  'em  all  hot. 

April.  —  May  did  a  crayon  head  of  Mother  with  Mrs. 
Murdock;  very  good  likeness.  All  of  us  as  proud  as 
peacocks  of  our  "  little  Raphael." 

Heard  Mrs.  Butler  read  ;  very  fine. 

May.  —  Left  the  L.'s  with  my  thirty-three  dollars ; 
glad  to  rest.  May  went  home  with  her  picture,  happy 
in  her  winter's  work  and  success. 

Father  had  three  talks  at  W.  F.  Channing's.  Good 
company,  -  -  Emerson,  Mrs.  Howe,  and  the  rest. 

Saw  young  Booth  in  Brutus,  and  liked  him  better  than 
his  father ;  went  about  and  rested  after  my  labors ;  glad 
to  be  with  Father,  who  enjoyed  Boston  and  friends. 

Home  on  the  loth,  passing  Sunday  at  the  Emerson's. 
I  have  done  what  I  planned,  — supported  myself,  written 
eight  stories,  taught  four  months,  earned  a  hundred  dol- 
lars, and  sent  money  home. 

June.  -  -  All  happy  together.     My  dear  Nan  was  with 
me,  and   we    had  good    times.      Betty  was   feeble,   but 

92  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

seemed  to  cheer  up  for  a  time.  The  long,  cold,  lonely 
winter  has  been  too  hard  for  the  frail  creature,  and  we  are 
all  anxious  about  her.  I  fear  she  may  slip  away ;  for  she 
never  seemed  to  care  much  for  this  world  beyond  home. 

So  gradually  the  day  seemed  to  be  coming  to 
which  Louisa  had  long  looked  forward.  She  found 
that  she  could  be  independent,  could  help  her  fam- 
ily, and  even  indulge  some  of  her  own  tastes. 

About  this  time  Miss  Alcott  mentions  a  young 
friend  who  died  in  her  arms,  and  speaks  of  going 
to  console  the  sister  in  her  loneliness.  This 
shows  how  warmly  her  heart  beat  for  others  while 
her  head  was  so  busy  with  her  ambitious  plans. 
She  speaks  also  of  the  hint  of  a  new  story  called 
"  The  Cost  of  an  Idea."  She  never  lost  sight  of 
this  plan,  but  did  not  carry  it  out.  Her  father's 
life  and  character  were  in  her  mind,  and  she  longed 
to  portray  the  conflict  between  his  high  ideal  and 
the  practical  difficulties  of  his  life ;  but  it  was  an 
impossible  subject.  The  Fruitlands  episode  was 
told  in  "  Transcendental  Wild  Oats,"  and  his  early 
life  in  "  Elis's  Education."  But  although  her  ad- 
miration and  affection  for  him  are  abundantly  shown 
in  her  journals,  she  never  perhaps  understood  him 
so  thoroughly  that  she  could  adequately  portray 
his  personality;  neither  could  she  do  justice  to  all 
related  to  him  without  trenching  upon  the  privacy 
due  to  sacred  feelings. 

A  great  shadow  fell  over  Louisa's  heart  and  life 
from  the  increasing  illness  of  her  dear  younger  sister 
Elizabeth.  This  young  girl  was  tenderly  beloved 
by  all  the  family,  and  was  indeed  as  pure,  refined, 


Home  of  the  Alcott  Family,  1858. 

Authorship.  93 

and  holy  as  she  is  represented  as  Beth  in  "  Little 
Women."  Her  decay  was  very  gradual,  and  she 
was  so  patient  and  sweet  that  the  sad  time  of  anx- 
iety was  a  very  precious  one  in  remembrance. 

This  sickness  added  to  the  pecuniary  burdens  of 
the  family,  and  eight  years  afterward  Louisa  paid 
the  bill  of  the  physician  who  attended  her  sister. 

In  October,  1857,  the  family  removed  again  to 
Concord,  and  Louisa  remained  at  home  to  assist  in 
the  care  of  the  beloved  invalid.  They  lived  a  few 
months  in  a  part  of  a  house  which  they  hired  until 
the  Orchard  House,  which  they  had  bought,  was 
ready  for  them.  Here  the  dear  sister's  life  came 
to  a  close. 

This  was  the  first  break  in  the  household,  and 
the  mother's  heart  never  fully  recovered  from  it. 
Louisa  accepted  death  with  strong,  s\vect  wisdom. 
It  never  seemed  to  have  any  terror  for  her. 

In  July  they  took  possession  of  the  Orchard 
House,  which  was  hereafter  the  permanent  resi- 
dence of  the  family.  This  was  a  picturesque  old 
house  on  the  side  of  a  hill,  with  an  orchard  of  ap- 
ple-trees. It  was  not  far  from  Mr.  Emerson's,  and 
within  walking  distance  of  the  village,  yet  very 
quiet  and  rural.  Mr.  Alcott  had  his  library,  and 
was  always  very  happy  there ;  but  Louisa's  heart 
never  clung  to  it. 

The  engagement  of  the  elder  sister  was  a  very 
exciting  event  to  Louisa,  who  did  not  like  having 
the  old  sisterly  relation  broken  in  upon ;  but  every- 
thing was  so  genuine  and  true  in  the  love  of  the 
newly  betrothed  pair  that  she  could  not  help  ac- 
cepting the  change  as  a  blessing  to  her  sister  and 

94  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

taking  the  new  brother  into  her  heart.  The  entries 
in  her  journal  show  that  the  picture  she  has  drawn 
in  "  Little  Women  "  of  this  noble  man  is  from  life, 
and  not  exaggerated. 

Louisa  went  to  Boston  for  a  visit,  and  again  had 
hopes  of  going  on  to  the  stage ;  but  an  accident 
prevented  it ;  and  she  returned  to  Concord  and  her 
writing,  working  off  her  disappointment  in  a  story 
called  "  Only  an  Actress." 

Among  her  experiences  at  this  time  was  an  offer 
of  marriage,  about  which  she  consulted  her  mother, 
telling  her  that  she  did  not  care  for  the  lover  very 
much.  The  wise  mother  saved  her  from  the  impulse 
to  self-sacrifice,  which  might  have  led  her  to  accept  a 
position  which  would  have  given  help  to  the  family. 

Although  this  was  not  the  only  instance  of  offers 
of  marriage,  more  or  less  advantageous,  made  to 
her,  Louisa  had  no  inclination  toward  matrimony. 
Her  heart  was  bound  up  in  her  family,  and  she  could 
hardly  contemplate  her  own  interests  as  separate 
from  theirs.  She  loved  activity,  freedom,  and  inde- 
pendence. She  could  not  cherish  illusions  ten- 
derly; and  she  always  said  that  she  got  tired  of 
everybody,  and  felt  sure  that  she  should  of  her 
husband  if  she  married.  She  never  wished  to 
make  her  heroines  marry,  and  the  love  story  is  the 
part  of  her  books  for  which  she  cared  least.  She 
yielded  to  the  desire  of  the  public,  who  will  not 
accept  life  without  a  recognition  of  this  great  joy 
in  it.  Still  it  must  be  acknowledged  that  she  has 
sometimes  painted  very  sweet  and  natural  love 
scenes,  although  more  often  in  quaint  and  homely 
guise  than  in  the  fashion  of  ancient  romance. 

Authorship.  95 

"  King  of  Clubs  and  Queen  of  Hearts '  is  very 
prettily  told  ;  and  "  Mrs.  Todger's  Teapot  "  is  true 
to  that  quiet,  earnest  affection  which  does  not  pass 
away  with  youth. 

The  writing  went  on,  and  she  received  five,  six, 
or  ten  dollars  apiece  for  her  stories ;  but  she  did 
not  yet  venture  to  give  up  the  sewing  and  teaching, 
which  was  still  the  sure  reliance. 

Her  younger  sister  now  began  to  exercise  her 
talent,  and  illustrated  a  little  book  of  Louisa's  called 
"  Christmas  Elves,"  which  she  says  is  better  than 
"  Flower  Fables." 


Read  Charlotte  Bronte's  life.  A  very  interesting,  but 
sad  one.  So  full  of  talent ;  and  after  working  long,  just 
as  success,  love,  and  happiness  come,  she  dies. 

Wonder  if  I  shall  ever  be  famous  enough  for  people  to 
care  to  read  my  story  and  struggles.  I  can't  be  a  C.  B., 
but  I  may  do  a  little  something  yet. 

July.  —  Grandma  Alcott  came  to  visit  us.  A  sweet 
old  lady ;  and  I  am  glad  to  know  her,  and  see  where 
Father  got  his  nature.  Eighty-four ;  yet  very  smart,  in- 
dustrious, and  wise.  A  house  needs  a  grandma  in  it. 

As  we  sat  talking  over  Father's  boyhood,  I  never  real- 
ized so  plainly  before  how  much  he  has  done  for  himself. 
His  early  life  sounded  like  a  pretty  old  romance,  and 
Mother  added  the  love  passages. 

I  got  a  hint  for  a  story ;  and  some  day  will  do  it,  and 
call  it  "The  Cost  of  an  Idea."  Spindle  Hill,  Temple 
School,  Fruitlands,  Boston,  and  Concord,  would  make 
fine  chapters.  The  trials  and  triumphs  of  the  Pathetic 
Family  would  make  a  capital  book ;  may  I  live  to  do  it. 

August.  —  A  sad,  anxious  month.    Betty  worse  ;  Mother 

96  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

takes  her  to  the  seashore.  Father  decides  to  go  back  to 
Concord ;  he  is  never  happy  far  from  Emerson,  the  one 
true  friend  who  loves  and  understands  and  helps  him. 

September.  —  An  old  house  near  R.  W.  E.'s  is  bought 
with  Mother's  money,  and  we  propose  to  move.  Mother 
in  Boston  with  poor  Betty,  who  is  failing  fast.  Anna  and 
I  have  a  hard  time  breaking  up. 

October.  —  Move  to  Concord.  Take  half  a  house  in 
town  till  spring,  when  the  old  one  is  to  be  made  ready. 

Find  dear  Betty  a  shadow,  but  sweet  and  patient 
always.  Fit  up  a  nice  room  for  her,  and  hope  home 
and  love  and  care  may  keep  her. 

People  kind  and  friendly,  and  the  old  place  looks 
pleasant,  though  I  never  want  to  live  in  it. 

November.  —  Father  goes  West,  taking  Grandma  home. 
We  settle  down  to  our  winter,  whatever  it  is  to  be.  Liz- 
zie seems  better,  and  we  have  some  plays.  Sanborn's 
school  makes  things  lively,  and  we  act  a  good  deal. 

Twenty-five  this  month.  I  feel  my  quarter  of  a  cen- 
tury rather  heavy  on  my  shoulders  just  now.  I  lead  two 
lives.  One  seems  gay  with  plays,  etc.,  the  other  very  sad, 
—  in  Betty's  room  ;  for  though  she  wishes  us  to  act,  and 
loves  to  see  us  get  ready,  the  shadow  is  there,  and  Mother 
and  I  see  it.  Betty  loves  to  have  me  with  her;  and  I  am 
with  her  at  night,  for  Mother  needs  rest.  Betty  says  she 
feels  "  strong  "  when  I  am  near.  So  glad  to  be  of  use. 

December.  —  Some  fine  plays  for  charity. 

January,  1858.  —  Lizzie  much  worse  ;  Dr.  G.  says  there 
is  no  hope.  A  hard  thing  to  hear ;  but  if  she  is  only  to 
suffer,  I  pray  she  may  go  soon.  She  was  glad  to  know 
she  was  to  "  get  well,"  as  she  called  it,  and  we  tried  to 
bear  it  bravely  for  her  sake.  We  gave  up  plays  ;  Father 
came  home ;  and  Anna  took  the  housekeeping,  so  that 
Mother  and  I  could  devote  ourselves  to  her.  Sad,  quiet 

Authorship.  97 

days  in  her  room,  and  strange  nights  keeping  up  the  fire 
and  watching  the  dear  little  shadow  try  to  wile  away  the 
long  sleepless  hours  without  troubling  me.  She  sews, 
reads,  sings  softly,  and  lies  looking  at  the  fire,  —  so  sweet 
and  patient  and  so  worn,  my  heart  is  broken  to  see  the 
change.  I  wrote  some  lines  one  night  on  "  Our  Angel  in 
the  House." 

[Jo  and  Beth.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

February.  —  A  mild  month ;  Betty  very  comfortable, 
and  we  hope  a  little. 

Dear  Betty  is  slipping  away,  and  every  hour  is  too 
precious  to  waste,  so  I  '11  keep  my  lamentations  over 
Nan's  [affairs]  till  this  duty  is  over. 

Lizzie  makes  little  things,  and  drops  them  out  of  win- 
dows to  the  school-children,  smiling  to  see  their  surprise. 
In  the  night  she  tells  me  to  be  Mrs.  Gamp,  when  I  give 
her  her  lunch,  and  tries  to  be  gay  that  I  may  keep  up. 
Dear  little  saint !  I  shall  be  better  all  my  life  for  these 
sad  hours  with  you. 

March  i^th.  —  My  dear  Beth  died  at  three  this  morn- 
ing, after  two  years  of  patient  pain.  Last  week  she  put 
her  work  away,  saying  the  needle  was  "  too  heavy,"  and 
having  given  us  her  few  possessions,  made  ready  for  the 
parting  in  her  own  simple,  quiet  way.  For  two  days  she 
suffered  much,  begging  for  ether,  though  its  effect  was 
gone.  Tuesday  she  lay  in  Father's  arms,  and  called 
us  round  her,  smiling  contentedly  as  she  said,  "  All 
here  ! '  I  think  she  bid  us  good-by  then,  as  she  held 
our  hands  and  kissed  us  tenderly.  Saturday  she  slept, 
and  at  midnight  became  unconscious,  quietly  breathing 
her  life  away  till  three ;  then,  with  one  last  look  of  the 
beautiful  eyes,  she  was  gone. 

A  curious  thing  happened,  and  I  will  tell  it  here,  for 

98  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Dr.  G.  said  it  was  a  fact.  A  few  moments  after  the  last 
breath  came,  as  Mother  and  I  sat  silently  watching  the 
shadow  fall  on  the  dear  little  face,  I  saw  a  light  mist 
rise  from  the  body,  and  float  up  and  vanish  in  the  air. 
Mother's  eyes  followed  mine,  and  when  I  said,  "What 
did  you  see?'  she  described  the  same  light  mist.  Dr. 
G.  said  it  was  the  life  departing  visibly. 

For  the  last  time  we  dressed  her  in  her  usual  cap  and 
gown,  and  laid  her  on  her  bed,  —  at  rest  at  last.  What 
she  had  suffered  was  seen  in  the  face ;  for  at  twenty- three 
she  looked  like  a  woman  of  forty,  so  worn  was  she,  and 
all  her  pretty  hair  gone. 

On  Monday  Dr.  Huntington  read  the  Chapel  service, 
and  we  sang  her  favorite  hymn.  Mr.  Emerson,  Henry 
Thoreau,  Sanborn,  and  John  Pratt,  carried  her  out  of  the 
old  home  to  the  new  one  at  Sleepy  Hollow  chosen  by 
herself.  So  the  first  break  comes,  and  I  know  what 
death  means,  —  a  liberator  for  her,  a  teacher  for  us. 

April.  —  Came  to  occupy  one  wing  of  Hawthorne's 
house  (once  ours)  while  the  new  one  was  being  re- 
paired. Father,  Mother,  and  I  kept  house  together ; 
May  being  in  Boston,  Anna  at  Pratt  Farm,  and,  for  the 
first  time,  Lizzie  absent.  I  don't  miss  her  as  I  expected 
to  do,  for  she  seems  nearer  and  dearer  than  before  ;  and  I 
am  glad  to  know  she  is  safe  from  pain  and  age  in  some 
world  where  her  innocent  soul  must  be  happy. 

Death  never  seemed  terrible  to  me,  and  now  is 
beautiful ;  so  I  cannot  fear  it,  but  find  it  friendly  and 

May.  —  A  lonely  month  with  all  the  girls  gone,  and 
Father  and  Mother  absorbed  in  the  old  house,  which  I 
don't  care  about,  not  liking  Concord. 

On  the  yth  of  April,  Anna  came  walking  in  to  tell  us 
she  was  engaged  to  John  Pratt ;  so  another  sister  is  gone. 

Authorship.  99 

J.  is  a  model  son  and  brother,  —  a  true  man,  —  full  of  fine 
possibilities,  but  so  modest  one  does  not  see  it  at  once. 
He  is  handsome,  healthy,  and  happy ;  just  home  from 
the  West,  and  so  full  of  love  he  is  pleasant  to  look  at. 

I  moaned  in  private  over  my  great  loss,  and  said  I  'd 
never  forgive  J.  for  taking  Anna  from  me  ;  but  I  shall  if 
he  makes  her  happy,  and  turn  to  little  May  for  my  comfort. 

[Now  that  John  is  dead,  I  can  truly  say  we  all  had  cause 
to  bless  the  day  he  came  into  the  family  ;  for  we  gained  a 
son  and  brother,  and  Anna  the  best  husband  ever  known. 

For  ten  years  he  made  her  home  a  little  heaven  of  love 
and  peace  ;  and  when  he  died  he  left  her  the  legacy  of  a  beau- 
tiful life,  and  an  honest  name  to  his  little  sons.  —  L.  M.  A., 

June.  —  The  girls  came  home,  and  I  went  to  visit  L.  W. 
in  Boston.  Saw  Charlotte  Cushman,  and  had  a  stage- 
struck  fit.  Dr.  W.  asked  Barry  to  let  me  act  at  his 
theatre,  and  he  agreed.  I  was  to  do  Widow  Pottle,  as 
the  dress  was  a  good  disguise  and  I  knew  the  part  well. 
It  was  all  a  secret,  and  I  had  hopes  of  trying  a  new  life ; 
the  old  one  being  so  changed  now,  I  felt  as  if  I  must 
find  interest  in  something  absorbing.  But  Mr.  B.  broke 
his  leg,  so  I  had  to  give  it  up ;  and  when  it  was  known, 
the  dear,  respectable  relations  were  horrified  at  the  idea. 
I  '11  try  again  by-and-by,  and  see  if  I  have  the  gift.  Per- 
haps it  is  acting,  not  writing,  I  'm  meant  for.  Nature 
must  have  a  vent  somehow. 

July.  —  Went  into  the  new  house  and  began  to  settle. 
Father  is  happy ;  Mother  glad  to  be  at  rest ;  Anna  is  in 
bliss  with  her  gentle  John  ;  and  May  busy  over  her  pic- 
tures. I  have  plans  simmering,  but  must  sweep  and  dust 
and  wash  my  dish-pans  a  while  longer  till  I  see  my  way. 

Worked  off  my  stage  fever  in  writing  a  story,  and  felt 
better ;  also  a  moral  tale,  and  got  twenty- five  dollars, 

ioo  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

which  pieced  up  our  summer  gowns  and  bonnets  all 
round.  The  inside  of  my  head  can  at  least  cover  the 

August.  —  Much  company  to  see  the  new  house.  All 
seem  to  be  glad  that  the  wandering  family  is  anchored  at 
last.  We  won't  move  again  for  twenty  years  if  I  can  help 
it.  The  old  people  need  an  abiding  place ;  and  now 
that  death  and  love  have  taken  two  of  us  away,  I  can,  I 
hope,  soon  manage  to  care  for  the  remaining  four. 

The  weeklies  will  all  take  stories ;  and  I  can  simmer 
novels  while  I  do  my  housework,  so  see  my  way  to  a  little 
money,  and  perhaps  more  by-and-by  if  I  ever  make  a  hit. 

Probably  owing  to  the  excitement  of  grief  for 
her  sister's  death,  and  sympathy  in  Anna's  happy 
betrothal,  Louisa  became  in  October  more  discour- 
aged than  she  had  ever  been,  and  went  to  Boston 
in  search  of  work.  As  she  walked  over  the  mill- 
dam  the  running  stream  brought  the  thought  of 
the  River  of  Death,  which  would  end  all  troubles. 
It  was  but  a  momentary  impulse,  and  the  brave 
young  heart  rallied  to  the  thought,  ''There  is  work 
for  me,  and  I  '11  have  it !  '  Her  journal  narrates 
how  Mr.  Parker  helped  her  through  this  period  of 
anxiety.  She  was  all  ready  to  go  to  Lancaster, 
to  hard  drudgery  at  sewing,  when  her  old  place  as 
governess  was  again  offered  to  her,  and  her  own 
support  was  assured. 

October.  —  Went  to  Boston  on  my  usual  hunt  for  em- 
ployment, as  I  am  not  needed  at  home  and  seem  to  be 
the  only  bread-winner  just  now. 

•  ••••••*• 

My  fit  of  despair  was  soon  over,  for  it  seemed  so 
cowardly  to  run  away  before  the  battle  was  over  I 

Authorship.  101 

couldn't  do  it.  So  I  said  firmly,  "There  is  work  for 
me,  and  I  '11  have  it,"  and  went  home  resolved  to  take 
Fate  by  the  throat  and  shake  a  living  out  of  her. 

Sunday  Mr.  Parker  preached  a  sermon  on  "  Laborious 
Young  Women."  Just  what  I  needed;  for  it  said: 
"  Trust  your  fellow-beings,  and  let  them  help  you. 
Don't  be  too  proud  to  ask,  and  accept  the  humblest 
work  till  you  can  find  the  task  you  want." 

"  I  will,"  said  I,  and  went  to  Mr.  P.'s.  He  was  out ; 
but  I  told  Mrs.  P.  my  wants,  and  she  kindly  said  Theo- 
dore and  Hannah  would  be  sure  to  have  something  for 
me.  As  I  went  home  I  met  Mrs.  L.,  who  had  not 
wanted  me,  as  Alice  went  to  school.  She  asked  if  I  was 
engaged,  and  said  A.  did  not  do  well,  and  she  thought 
perhaps  they  would  like  me  back.  I  was  rejoiced,  and 
went  home  feeling  that  the  tide  had  begun  to  turn. 
Next  day  came  Miss  H.  S.  to  offer  me  a  place  at  the 
Girls'  Reform  School  at  Lancaster,  to  sew  ten  hours 
a  day,  make  and  mend.  I  said  I  'd  go,  as  I  could  do 
anything  with  a  needle ;  but  added,  if  Mrs.  L.  wants  me 
I  'd  rather  do  that. 

"  Of  course  you  had.  Take  it  if  it  comes,  and  if  not, 
try  my  work."  I  promised  and  waited.  That  eve,  when 
my  bag  was  packed  and  all  was  ready  for  Lancaster, 
came  a  note  from  Mrs.  L.  offering  the  old  salary  and  the 
old  place.  I  sang  for  joy,  and  next  day  early  posted  off 
to  Miss  S.  She  was  glad  and  shook  hands,  saying,  "  It 
was  a  test,  my  dear,  and  you  stood  it.  When  I  told 
Mr.  P.  that  you  would  go,  he  said,  '  That  is  a  true  girl ; 
Louisa  will  succeed.' 

I  was  very  proud  and  happy ;  for  these  things  are 
tests  of  character  as  well  as  courage,  and  I  covet  the 
respect  of  such  true  people  as  Mr.  P.  and  Miss  S. 

So  away  to  my  little  girl  with  a  bright  heart !  for  with 

102  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

tales,  and  sewing  for  Mary,  which  pays  my  board,  there  I 
am  fixed  for  the  winter  and  my  cares  over.  Thank  the 

She  now  found  publishers  eager  for  her  stories, 
and  went  on  writing  for  them.  She  was  encour- 
aged by  E.  P.  Whipple's  praise  of  "  Mark  Field's 
Mistake,"  and  by  earning  thirty  dollars,  most  of 
which  she  sent  home. 


Earned  thirty  dollars ;  sent  twenty  home.  Heard 
Curtis,  Parker,  Higginson,  and  Mrs.  Dall  lecture.  See 
Booth's  Hamlet,  and  my  ideal  done  at  last. 

My  twenty-sixth  birthday  on  the  29th.  Some  sweet 
letters  from  home,  and  a  ring  of  A.'s  and  J.'s  hair  as  a 
peace-offering.  A  quiet  day,  with  many  thoughts  and 

The  past  year  has  brought  us  the  first  death  and  be- 
trothal, —  two  events  that  change  my  life.  I  can  see  that 
these  experiences  have  taken  a  deep  hold,  and  changed 
or  developed  me.  Lizzie  helps  me  spiritually,  and  a 
little  success  makes  me  more  self-reliant.  Now  that 
Mother  is  too  tired  to  be  wearied  with  my  moods,  I  have 
to  manage  them  alone,  and  am  learning  that  work  of 
head  and  hand  is  my  salvation  when  disappointment  or 
weariness  burden  and  darken  my  soul. 

In  my  sorrow  I  think  I  instinctively  came  nearer  to 
God,  and  found  comfort  in  the  knowledge  that  he  was 
sure  to  help  when  nothing  else  could. 

A  great  grief  has  taught  me  more  than  any  minister, 
and  when  feeling  most  alone  I  find  refuge  in  the  Almighty 
Friend.  If  this  is  experiencing  religion  I  have  done  it ; 
but  I  think  it  is  only  the  lesson  one  must  learn  as  it 
comes,  and  I  am  glad  to  know  it. 

Authorship.  103 

After  my  fit  of  despair  I  seem  to  be  braver  and  more 
cheerful,  and  grub  away  with  a  good  heart.  Hope  it 
will  last,  for  I  need  all  the  courage  and  comfort  I  can  get. 

I  feel  as  if  I  could  write  better  now,  —  more  truly  of 
things  I  have  felt  and  therefore  know.  I  hope  I  shall 
yet  do  my  great  book,  for  that  seems  to  be  my  work, 
and  I  am  growing  up  to  it.  I  even  think  of  trying  the 
"Atlantic."  There  's  ambition  for  you  !  I  'm  sure  some 
of  the  stories  are  very  flat.  If  Mr.  L.  takes  the  one  Father 
carried  to  him,  I  shall  think  I  can  do  something. 

December.  —  Father  started  on  his  tour  West  full  of 
hope.  Dear  man  !  How  happy  he  will  be  if  people  will 
only  listen  to  and  pay  for  his  wisdom. 

May  came  to  B.  and  stayed  with  me  while  she  took 
drawing  lessons.  Christmas  at  home.  Write  an  Indian 

January,  1859.  —  Send  a  parcel  home  to  Marmee 
and  Nan. 

Mother  very  ill.  Home  to  nurse  her  for  a  week. 
Wonder  if  I  ought  not  to  be  a  nurse,  as  I  seem  to  have 
a  gift  for  it.  Lizzie,  L.  W.,  and  Mother  all  say  so  ;  and  I 
like  it.  If  I  could  n't  write  or  act  I  'd  try  it.  May  yet. 
$21  from  L. ;  $15  home. 

•  •••••••• 

Some  day  I  '11  do  my  best,  and  get  well  paid  for  it. 
[$3,000  for  a  short  serial  in  1 876.  True  prophet  —  L.  M.  A .] 

Wrote  a  sequel  to  "  Mark  Field."  Had  a  queer  time 
over  it,  getting  up  at  night  to  write  it,  being  too  full  to 

March.  —  "Mark'  was  a  success,  and  much  praised. 
So  I  found  the  divine  afflatus  did  descend.  Busy  life 
teaching,  writing,  sewing,  getting  all  I  can  from  lectures, 
books,  and  good  people.  Life  is  my  college.  May  I 
graduate  well,  and  earn  some  honors  ! 

104  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

April.  —  May  went  home  after  a  happy  winter  at  the 
School  of  Design,  where  she  did  finely,  and  was  pro- 
nounced full  of  promise.  Mr.  T.  said  good  things  of 
her,  and  we  were  very  proud.  No  doubt  now  what  she 
is  to  be,  if  we  can  only  keep  her  along. 

I  went  home  also,  being  done  with  A.,  who  went  out 
of  town  early.  Won't  teach  any  more  if  I  can  help  it ; 
don't  like  it ;  and  if  I  can  get  writing  enough  can  do 
much  better. 

I  have  done  more  than  I  hoped.  Supported  myself, 
helped  May,  and  sent  something  home.  Not  borrowed 
a  penny,  and  had  only  five  dollars  given  me.  So  my 
third  campaign  ends  well. 

May.  —  Took  care  of  L.  W.,  who  was  ill.  Walked  from 
C.  to  B.  one  day,  twenty  miles,  in  five  hours,  and  went 
to  a  party  in  the  evening.  Not  very  tired.  Well  done 
for  a  vegetable  production  ! 

June.  —  Took  two  children  to  board  and  teach.  A 
busy  month,  as  Anna  was  in  B. 

September.  -  -  Great  State  Encampment  here.  Town 
full  of  soldiers,  with  military  fuss  and  feathers.  I  like  a 
camp,  and  long  for  a  war,  to  see  how  it  all  seems.  I 
can't  fight,  but  I  can  nurse. 

[Prophetic  again.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

October,  1859.  —  May  did  a  fine  copy  of  Emerson's 
Endymion1  for  me. 

Mother  sixty.     God  bless  the  dear,  brave  woman  ! 

Good  news  of  Parker  in  Florence,  —  my  beloved 
minister  and  friend.  To  him  and  R.  W.  E.  I  owe 
much  of  my  education.  May  I  be  a  worthy  pupil  of 
such  men  ! 

November.  —  Hurrah  !  My  story  was  accepted  ;  and 
Lowell  asked  if  it  was  not  a  translation  from  the  German, 

1  A  fine  bas-relief  owned  by  Mr.  Emerson. 

Authorship.  105 

it  was  so  unlike  most  tales.  I  felt  much  set  up,  and  my 
fifty  dollars  will  be  very  happy  money.  People  seem  to 
think  it  a  great  thing  to  get  into  the  "  Atlantic  ; '  but 
I  Ve  not  been  pegging  away  all  these  years  in  vain,  and 
may  yet  have  books  and  publishers  and  a  fortune  of  my 
own.  Success  has  gone  to  my  head,  and  I  wander  a 
little.  Twenty-seven  years  old,  and  very  happy. 

The  Harper's  Ferry  tragedy  makes  this  a  memorable 
month.  Glad  I  have  lived  to  see  the  Antislavery  move- 
ment and  this  last  heroic  act  in  it.  Wish  I  could  do  my 
part  in  it. 

December,  1859.  —  The  execution  of  Saint  John  the  Just 
took  place  on  the  second.  A  meeting  at  the  hall,  and 
all  Concord  was  there.  Emerson,  Thoreau,  Father,  and 
Sanborn  spoke,  and  all  were  full  of  reverence  and  admi- 
ration for  the  martyr. 

I  made  some  verses  on  it,  and  sent  them  to  the 
"  Liberator." 

A  sickness  of  Mrs.  Alcott  through  which  she 
nursed  her  makes  Louisa  question  whether  nursing 
is  not  her  true  vocation.  She  had  an  opportunity 
to  try  it  later. 

Much  interest  attaches  to  this  period  of  Louisa's 
work,  when  she  dashed  off  sensational  stories  as 
fast  as  they  were  wanted,  from  the  account  which 
she  has  given  of  it  in  "  Little  Women."  She  has 
concentrated  into  one  short  period  there  the  wrork 
and  the  feelings  of  a  much  longer  time.  She  cer- 
tainly did  let  her  fancy  run  riot  in  these  tales,  and 
they  were  as  sensational  as  the  penny  papers  de- 
sired. She  had  a  passion  for  wild,  adventurous 
life,  and  even  for  lurid  passion  and  melodramatic 
action,  which  she  could  indulge  to  the  utmost  in 

io6  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

these  stories.  Louisa  was  always  a  creature  of 
moods ;  and  it  was  a  great  relief  to  work  off  cer- 
tain feelings  by  the  safe  vent  of  imaginary  persons 
and  scenes  in  a  story.  She  had  no  one  to  guide 
or  criticise  her ;  and  the  fact  that  these  gambols  of 
fancy  brought  the  much-needed  money,  and  were, 
as  she  truly  called  them,  "  pot  boilers,"  certainly 
did  not  discourage  her  from  indulging  in  them. 
She  is  probably  right  in  calling  most  of  them  "  trash 
and  rubbish,"  for  she  was  yet  an  unformed  girl, 
and  had  not  studied  herself  or  life  very  deeply;  but 
her  own  severe  condemnation  of  them  in  "  Little 
Women"  might  give  a  false  idea.  The  stories  are 
never  coarse  or  immoral.  They  give  a  lurid,  un- 
natural picture  of  life,  but  sin  is  not  made  capti- 
vating or  immorality  attractive.  There  is  often  a 
severe  moral  enforced.  They  did  not  give  poison 
to  her  readers,  only  over-seasoned  unnatural  food, 
which  might  destroy  the  relish  for  wholesome  men- 
tal nourishment. 

We  are  inclined  to  ask,  What  did  Louisa  herself 
get  out  of  this  wild,  Walpurgis-Night  ride  among 
ghosts  and  goblins,  letting  her  fancy  run  riot,  and 
indulging  every  mood  as  it  rose?  Did  it  not  give 
her  the  dash  and  freedom  in  writing  which  we  find 
in  all  her  books,  a  command  of  language,  and  a 
recognition  of  the  glow  and  force  of  life?  She 
finds  life  no  mere  commonplace  drudgery,  but 
full  of  great  possibilities.  Did  it  not  also  give 
her  an  interest  in  all  the  wild  fancies  and  dreams 
of  girls,  all  the  longing  for  adventure  of  boys, 
and  make  her  hopeful  even  of  the  veriest  young 
scamps  that  they  would  work  off  the  turbulent 

Authorship.  107 

energies  of  youth  safely  if  activities  were  wisely 
provided  for  them? 

No  writer  for  children  ever  was  so  fully  recog- 
nized as  understanding  them.  They  never  felt 
that  she  stood  on  a  pinnacle  of  wisdom  to  cen- 
sure them,  but  came  right  down  into  their  midst 
to  work  and  play  with  them,  and  at  the  same  time 
to  show  them  the  path  out  of  the  tangled  thickets, 
and  to  help  them  to  see  light  in  their  gloomiest 

Yet  she  unquestionably  recognized  that  she  was 
not  doing  the  best  work  of  which  she  was  capable ; 
and  she  looked  forward  still  to  the  books  she  was 
to  write,  as  well  as  the  fortune  she  was  to  make. 
She  did  not  like  any  reference  to  these  sensational 
stories  in  after  life,  although  she  sometimes  re-used 
plots  or  incidents  in  them;  and  she  was  very  un- 
willing to  have  them  republished. 

Boston  Bulletin,  —  Ninth  Issue. 

SUNDAY  EVE,  November,  1858. 

MY  BLESSED  NAX,  —  Having  finished  my  story,  I  can 
refresh  my  soul  by  a  scribble  to  you,  though  I  have  noth- 
ing to  tell  of  much  interest. 

Mrs.  L.  is  to  pay  me  my  "  celery  "  each  month,  as  she 
likes  to  settle  all  bills  in  that  way ;  so  yesterday  she  put 
$20.85  mto  mv  willing  hands,  and  gave  me  Satur- 
day P.  M,  for  a  holiday.  This  unexpected  $20,  with  the 
$10  for  my  story  (if  I  get  it)  and  $5  for  sewing,  will 
give  me  the  immense  sum  of  $35.  I  shall  get  a  second- 
hand carpet  for  the  little  parlor,  a  bonnet  for  you,  and 
some  shoes  and  stockings  for  myself,  as  three  times  round 
the  Common  in  cold  weather  conduces  to  chilblains, 

loS  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

owing  to  stockings  with  a  profusion  of  toe,  but  no  heel, 
and  shoes  with  plenty  of  heel,  but  a  paucity  of  toe.  The 
prejudices  of  society  demand  that  my  feet  be  covered  in 
the  houses  of  the  rich  and  great ;  so  I  shall  hose  and  shoe 
myself,  and  if  any  of  my  fortune  is  left,  will  invest  it  in  the 
Alcott  Sinking  Fund,  the  Micawber  R.  R.,  and  the  Skim- 
pole  three  per  cents. 

Tell  me  how  much  carpet  you  need,  and  T.  S.  will  find 
me  a  good  one.  In  December  I  shall  have  another  $20  ; 
so  let  me  know  what  is  wanting,  and  don't  live  on  "  five 
pounds  of  rice  and  a  couple  of  quarts  of  split  peas  "  all 
winter,  I  beg. 

How  did  you  like  "  Mark  Field's  Mistake  "?  I  don't 
know  whether  it  is  good  or  bad ;  but  it  will  keep  the  pot 
boiling,  and  I  ask  no  more.  I  wanted  to  go  and  see  if 
"  Hope's  Treasures  "  was  accepted,  but  was  afeared.  M. 
and  H.  both  appeared  ;  but  one  fell  asleep,  and  the  other 
forgot  to  remember ;  so  I  still  wait  like  Patience  on  a 
hard  chair,  smiling  at  an  inkstand.  Miss  K.  asked  me  to 
go  to  see  Booth  for  the  last  time  on  Saturday.  Upon 
that  ravishing  thought  I  brooded  all  the  week  very  mer- 
rily, and  I  danced,  sang,  and  clashed  my  cymbals  daily. 
Saturday  A.  M.  Miss  K.  sent  word  she  could  n't  go,  and 
from  my  pinnacle  of  joy  I  was  precipitated  into  an  abyss 
of  woe.  While  in  said  abyss  Mrs.  L.  put  the  $20  into 
my  hands.  That  was  a  moment  of  awful  trial.  Every 
one  of  those  dollars  cried  aloud,  "  What,  ho  !  Come 
hither,  and  be  happy  !  '  But  eight  cold  feet  on  a  straw 
carpet  marched  to  and  fro  so  pathetically  that  I  locked 
up  the  tempting  fiend,  and  fell  to  sewing,  as  a  Saturday 
treat ! 

But,  lo  !  virtue  was  rewarded.  Mrs.  H.  came  flying 
in,  and  took  me  to  the  Museum  to  see  "  Gold '  and 
"  Lend  Me  Five  Shillings."  Warren,  in  an  orange  tie,  red 

Authorship.  109 

coat,  white  satin  vest,  and  scarlet  ribbons  on  his  ankles, 
was  the  funniest  creature  you  ever  saw  ;  and  I  laughed  till 
I  cried,  —  which  was  better  for  me  than  the  melancholy 
Dane,  I  dare  say. 

I  'm  disgusted  with  this  letter ;  for  I  .always  begin  try- 
ing to  be  proper  and  neat ;  but  my  pen  will  not  keep  in 
order,  and  ink  has  a  tendency  to  splash  when  used  copi- 
ously and  with  rapidity.  I  have  to  be  so  moral  and  so 
dignified  nowadays  that  the  jocosity  of  my  nature  will  gush 
out  when  it  gets  a  chance,  and  the  consequences  are,  as 
you  see,  rubbish.  But  you  like  it ;  so  let 's  be  merry 
while  we  may,  for  to-morrow  is  Monday,  and  the  weekly 
grind  begins  again. 



Tune.  —  "  Wait  for  the  Wagon." 

THE  world  lies  fair  about  us,  and  a  friendly  sky  above ; 
Our  lives  are  full  of  sunshine,  our  homes  are  full  of  love ; 
Few  cares  or  sorrows  sadden  the  beauty  of  our  day  ; 
We  gather  simple  pleasures  like  daisies  by  the  way. 

Chorus.  —  Oh  !  sing  with  cheery  voices, 

Like  robins  on  the  tree ; 
For  little  lads  and  lasses 
As  blithe  of  heart  should  be. 

The  village  is  our  fairyland  :  its  good  men  are  our  kings  ; 
And  wandering  through  its  by-ways  our  busy  minds  find  wings. 
The  school-room  is  our  garden,  and  we  the  flowers  there, 
And  kind  hands  tend  and  water  us  that  we  may  blossom  fair. 

Chorus.  —  Oh  !  dance  in  airy  circles, 
Like  fairies  on  the  lee ; 
For  little  lads  and  lasses 
As  light  of  foot  should  be. 

There 's  the  Shepherd  of  the  sheepfold ;  the  Father  of  the  vines  ; 
.The  Hermit  of  blue  Walden  ;  the  Poet  of  the  pines ; 
And  a  Friend  who  comes  among  us,  with  counsels  wise  and  mild 
With  snow  upon  his  forehead,  yet  at  heart  a  very  child. 

Chorus.  —  Oh  !  smile  as  smiles  the  river, 

Slow  rippling  to  the  sea  ; 
For  little  lads  and  lasses 
As  full  of  peace  should  be. 

The   Year  of  Good  Luck.  1 1 1 

There 's  not  a  cloud  in  heaven  but  drops  its  silent  dew ; 
No  violet  in  the  meadow  but  blesses  with  its  blue  ; 
No  happy  child  in  Concord  who  may  not  do  its  part 
To  make  the  great  world  better  by  innocence  of  heart. 

Chortis.  —  Oh  !  blossom  in  the  sunshine 

Beneath  the  village  tree ; 
For  little  lads  and  lasses 
Are  the  fairest  flowers  we  see. 

A  FTER  such  long  and  hard  struggles,  it  is 
±\.  pleasant  to  find  the  diary  for  1860  headed 
"  A  Year  of  Good  Luck."  The  appointment  of 
Mr.  Alcott  as  Superintendent  of  Schools  in  Con- 
cord was  a  great  happiness  to  the  family.  It  was 
a  recognition  of  his  character  and  ability,  and  gave 
him  congenial  occupation  and  some  small  pecuniary 

Louisa  was  writing  for  the  "  Atlantic,"  and  re- 
ceiving better  pay  for  her  work ;  Anna  was  happy ; 
and  May  absorbed  in  her  art. 

In  the  summer  Miss  Alcott  had  an  experience  in 
caring  for  a  young  friend  during  a  temporary  fit  of 
insanity,  which  she  has  partially  reproduced  in  the 
touching  picture  of  Helen  in  the  story  of  "  Work." 
It  is  a  powerful  lesson ;  but  it  is  almost  cruelly  en- 
forced, and  is  an  artistic  blemish  in  the  book.  While 
the  great  problem  of  heredity  should  be  studied  and 
its  lessons  enforced,  it  is  yet  a  mystery,  whose  laws 
are  not  understood ;  and  it  is  not  wise  to  paint  its 
possible  effects  in  the  lurid  light  of  excited  imagi- 
nation, which  may  too  often  bring  about  the  very 
evils  which  a  wise  and  temperate  caution  might 
prevent.  For  the  physician  and  teacher  such  in- 
vestigations are  important ;  but  they  are  dangerous 
to  the  young  and  sensitive. 

112  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

The  following  unusually  long  letter  gives  a  pleas- 
ing picture  of  the  family  life  at  this  time :  — 

To  Mrs.  Bond. 

APPLE  SLUMP,  Sept.  17,  1860. 

DEAR  AUNTIE,  —  I  consider  this  a  practical  illustration 
of  one  of  Mother's  naughty  amended  sayings,  "  Cast  your 
bread  upon  the  waters,  and  after  many  days  it  will  return 
buttered  ;  "  and  this  "  rule  of  three  "  don't  "  puzzle  me," 
as  the  other  did ;  for  my  venerable  raiment  went  away 
with  one  if  not  two  feet  in  the  grave,  and  came  back  in 
the  guise  of  three  stout  angels,  having  been  resurrection- 
ized  by  the  spirit  who  lives  on  the  other  side  of  a  Charles 
River  Jordan.  Thank  you  very  much,  and  be  sure  the 
dreams  I  dream  in  them  will  be  pleasant  ones ;  for, 
whether  you  sewed  them  or  not,  I  know  they  bring  some 
of  the  Auntie  influence  in  their  strength,  softness,  and 
warmth  ;  and,  though  a  Vandal,  I  think  any  prayers  I  may 
say  in  them  will  be  the  better  for  the  affectionate  recol- 
lections that  will  clothe  me  with  the  putting  on  of  these 
friendly  gowns,  while  my  belief  in  both  heavenly  and 
earthly  providences  will  be  amazingly  strengthened  by 
the  knowledge  of  some  lives  here,  whose  beauty  renders 
it  impossible  to  doubt  the  existence  of  the  life  hereafter. 

We  were  very  glad  to  hear  that  the  Papa  was  better ; 
for  when  paternal  "  Pvichards  "  ain't  "  themselves,"  every- 
body knows  the  anxious  state  of  the  domestic  realms. 

I  hope  Georgie  (last  name  disremembered)  has  re- 
covered from  the  anguish  of  discontented  teeth  and  berry- 
seeds,  and  that  "the  Mama"  was  as  much  benefited  by 
the  trip  as  the  other  parties  were,  barring  the  horse 

This  amiable  town  is  convulsed  just  now  with  a  gym- 
nastic fever,  which  shows  itself  with  great  violence  in  all 

The   Year  of  Good  Luck.  113 

the  schools,  and  young  societies  generally.  Dr.  Lewis 
has  "  inoculated  us  for  the  disease,"  and  it  has  "  taken 
finely ;  '  for  every  one  has  become  a  perambulating 
windmill,  with  all  its  four  sails  going  as  if  a  wind  had  set 
in ;  and  the  most  virulent  cases  present  the  phenomena 
of  black  eyes  and  excoriation  of  the  knobby  parts  of  the 
frame,  to  say  nothing  of  sprains  and  breakage  of  vessels 
looming  in  the  future. 

The  City  Fathers  approve  of  it ;  and  the  city  sons 
and  daughters  intend  to  show  that  Concord  has  as  much 
muscle  as  brain,  and  be  ready  for  another  Concord  fight, 
if  Louis  Napoleon  sees  fit  to  covet  this  famous  land  of 
Emerson,  Hawthorne,  Thoreau,  Alcott,  &  Co.  Abby  and 
I  are  among  the  pioneers ;  and  the  delicate  vegetable 
productions  clash  their  cymbals  in  private,  when  the  beef- 
eating  young  ladies  faint  away  and  become  superfluous 
dumb  belles. 

Saturday  we  had  J.  G.  Whittier,  Charlotte  Cushman, 
Miss  Stebbins  the  sculptress,  and  Mr.  Stuart,  conductor 
of  the  underground  railroad  of  this  charming  free  coun- 
try. So  you  see  our  humble  place  of  abode  is  perking 
up  ;  and  when  the  "  great  authoress  and  artist  "  are  fairly 
out  of  the  shell,  we  shall  be  an  honor  to  our  country  and 
terror  to  the  foe,  -  -  provided  good  fortune  don't  addle  or 
bad  fortune  smash  us. 

Father  continues  to  stir  up  the  schools  like  a  mild 
pudding-stick,  Mother  to  sing  Hebron  among  her  pots 
and  pans,  Anna  and  the  Prince  Consort  to  bill  and  coo 
in  the  little  dove-cot,  Oranthy  Bluggage  to  launch  chips 
on  the  Atlantic  and  make  a  gigantic  blot  of  herself  in 
working  the  vessel,  Abby  to  teach  the  fine  arts  and  play 
propriety  for  the  family,  and  the  old  house  to  put  its  best 
foot  foremost  and  hoot  at  the  idea  of  ever  returning  to 
the  chaos  from  which  it  came. 


114  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

This  is  a  condensed  history  of  "  the  pathetic  family," 
which  is  also  a  "  happy  family,"  owing  to  the  prevalence 
of  friends  and  lots  of  kindness  in  the  original  packages, 
"  which  are  always  arriving  "  when  the  "  Widow  Cruise's 
oil-bottle  "  begins  to  give  out. 

You  know  I  never  could  do  anything  in  a  neat  and 
proper  manner ;  so  you  will  receive  this  topsy-turvy  note 
as  you  do  its  writer,  and  with  love  to  all  from  all,  believe 
her,  dear  auntie, 

Ever  lovingly  yours, 

L.   M.  A. 

This  characteristic  letter  not  only  shows  Louisa's 
affectionate  feelings  and  gives  a  picture  of  her  life, 
but  indicates  that  "  The  Pathetic  Family,"  which 
was  the  foundation  of  "  Little  Women,"  was  already 
shaping  itself  in  her  mind. 

Mr.  Alcott's  career  as  Superintendent  of  Schools 
was  a  gratifying  success,  and  is  still  remembered 
by  friends  of  education  in  the  town.  The  year 
closed  with  a  school  festival,  for  which  Louisa 
wrote  a  poem,  and  in  which  she  took  hearty 

In  1 86 1  war  was  declared  with  the  South.  The 
Alcotts  were  all  alive  with  patriotic  enthusiasm, 
and  Louisa  took  an  active  part  in  fitting  off  the 
boys  for  the  army.  But  she  also  found  time  for 
much  reading.  Mr.  Alcott,  in  his  sonnet,  uses  the 
expression  about  Louisa  — 

"  Hast  with  grave  studies  vexed  a  lively  brain." 

He    may   possibly  have    referred    to    this    period, 
though  she  could  never  properly  be  called  a  student. 

The   Year  of  Good  Luck.  115 

She  was  a  rapid,  intelligent  reader,  and  her  taste 
was  severe  and  keen.  From  her  childhood  she 
had  browsed  in  her  father's  library,  full  of  the 
works  of  ancient  philosophers  and  quaint  English 
poets,  and  had  imbibed  from  them  great  thoughts 
and  noble  sentiments ;  but  her  reading,  like  all  her 
education,  was  immethodical.  Occasionally  she 
would  lay  out  courses  of  reading,  which  she  pur- 
sued for  a  time ;  but  in  general  she  followed  the 
cravings  of  a  healthy  appetite  for  knowledge,  read- 
ing what  came  in  her  way.  Later  in  life  she  often 
read  light  literature  in  abundance,  to  drown  the 
sensations  of  pain,  and  to  pass  away  the  hours  of 

She  read  French  easily,  and  learned  to  speak  it 
when  abroad ;  she  also  studied  German,  but  did 
not  acquire  equal  facility  in  that  tongue.  Of 
ancient  languages  she  had  no  knowledge.  His- 
tory could  not  fail  to  interest  such  a  student  of 
life,  and  she  loved  Nature  too  well  not  to  enjoy 
the  revelations  of  science  when  brought  to  her  no- 
tice ;  but  she  had  never  time  to  give  to  a  thorough 
study  of  either. 

In  her  journal  at  this  time  she  speaks  of  her 
religious  feelings,  which  the  experiences  of  grief 
and  despair  and  reviving  hope  had  deepened. 
Louisa  Alcott's  was  a  truly  religious  soul ;  she 
always  lived  in  the  consciousness  of  a  Higher 
Power  sustaining  and  blessing  her,  whose  presence 
was  revealed  to  her  through  Nature,  through  the 
inspired  words  of  great  thinkers  and  the  deep  ex- 
periences of  her  own  heart.  She  never  held  her 
life  as  an  isolated  possession  which  she  was  free  to 

116  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

use  for  her  own  enjoyment  or  glory.  Her  father 
truly  called  her  "  Duty's  faithful  child,"  and  her 
life  was  consecrated  to  the  duty  she  recognized  as 
specially  hers.  But  for  outward  forms  and  rites  of 
religion  she  cared  little  ;  her  home  was  sacred  to  her, 
and  she  found  her  best  life  there.  She  loved  Theo- 
dore Parker,  and  found  great  strength  and  help 
from  his  preaching,  and  afterward  liked  to  listen  to 
Dr.  Bartol ;  but  she  never  joined  any  church.  The 
Bible  was  not  her  favorite  reading,  though  her 
father  had  read  it  much  to  her  in  her  childhood, 
with  his  own  peculiar  charm  of  interpretation. 
Pilgrim's  Progress  was  one  of  the  few  religious 
books  which  became  dear  to  her  in  the  same 

Her  sister  Anna  was  married  in  May ;  this  was 
of  course  a  great  event  in  the  family.  While  fully 
rejoicing  in  her  sister's  happiness,  Louisa  felt  her 
loss  as  a  constant  companion  and  confidant.  The 
journal  gives  a  sufficient  description  of  the  event. 
Her  strong  affection  for  her  brother-in-law  appears 
in  "  Little"  Women  "  and  in  "Jo's  Boys."  About 
this  time  her  farce  was  brought  out  at  the  Howard 

The  story-writing  continued,  as  it  helped  to  pay 
the  expenses  of  the  family  ;  but  the  continuous, 
hurried  work  had  begun  to  affect  her  health,  and 
she  occasionally  suffered  from  illness. 

In  the  summer  of  1861  Miss  Alcott  began  to 
write  her  first  novel,  entitled  "  Moods  ;  "  this  proved 
to  be  the  least  successful  of  her  books,  and  yet  like 
many  an  unfortunate  child,  it  was  the  dearest  to 
the  mother's  heart.  It  was  not  written  for  money, 

The   Year  of  Good  Luck.  117 

but  for  its  own  sake,  and  she  was  possessed  by  the 
plot  and  the  characters.  Warwick  represented  her 
ideal  of  a  hero,  while  her  sister  preferred  the  type 
of  the  amiable  Moor ;  yet  there  is  far  less  of  her 
outward  self  revealed  in  this  than  in  her  other 
stories.  It  is  full  of  her  thoughts  and  fancies,  but 
not  of  her  life.  The  wilful,  moody,  charming  Syl- 
via does  not  affect  us  like  the  stormy  Jo,  who  is 
a  real  presence  to  us,  and  whom  we  take  to  our 
hearts  in  spite  of  her  faults.  The  men  are  such  as 
she  found  in  books,  but  had  never  known  herself, 
and,  carefully  as  she  has  drawn  them,  have  not 
the  individuality  of  Laurie  and  Professor  Bhaer. 
The  action  takes  place  in  an  unreal  world;  and 
though  there  are  many  pretty  scenes,  they  have 
not  the  real  flavor  of  New  England  life.  The 
principal  incident,  of  a  young  girl  going  up  the 
river  on  a  picnic-voyage  for  some  days  with  her 
brother  and  two  other  young  men,  was  so  con- 
trary to  common  ideas  of  decorum,  that  the  motive 
hardly  seems  sufficient  for  the  staid  sister's  con- 
sent ;  but  in  the  simple,  innocent  life  which  the 
Alcotts  lived  in  Concord  such  scruples  were  little 

Miss  Alcott  did  not  lay  stress  upon  the  marriage 
question  as  the  principal  feature  of  the  book;  she 
cared  more  to  describe  the  wilful  moods  of  a 
young  girl,  full  of  good  feelings,  and  longing  for  a 
rich  and  noble  life,  but  not  established  in  convic- 
tions and  principles.  She  meant  to  represent 
much  of  her  own  nature  in  Sylvia,  for  she  was 
always  a  creature  of  moods,  which  her  family 
learned  to  recognize  and  respect.  But  how 

iiS  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

unlike  was  the  discipline  of  family  work  and 
love,  which  saved  Louisa  from  fatal  caprices  and 
fitful  gusts  of  fancy  called  passion,  to  the  lot  of 
the  wealthy  and  admired  Sylvia.  Miss  Alcott 
says  that  the  incidents  of  the  marriage,  although 
not  drawn  from  life,  were  so  close  to  an  actual 
case  that  the  wife  asked  her  how  she  had  known 
her  secret;  but  such  realism  is  a  poor  justi- 
fication in  art.  It  is  that  which  becomes  true  to 
the  imagination  and  heart  through  its  vivid  per- 
sonation of  character  which  is  accepted,  not  the 
bare  facts.  The  great  question  of  the  transcen- 
dental period  was  truth  to  the  inward  life  instead 
of  the  outward  law.  But  in  "  Moods '  the  mar- 
riage question  is  not  stated  strongly;  it  does  not 
reach  down  to  this  central  principle.  It  is  only  in 
tragedy  that  such  a  double  relation  could  be  en- 
dured, when  the  situation  is  compelled  by  fate, — 
the  fate  of  character  and  overpowering  circum- 
stances, —  and  when  there  is  no  happy  solution 
possible.  But  Sylvia's  position  is  made  only  by 
her  own  weakness,  and  the  love  which  stands  in 
opposition  to  outward  duty  has  no  right  of  exist- 
ence. If  her  love  for  Warwick  could  be  overcome, 
there  was  no  question  of  her  duty ;  and  when  she 
accepts  Faith's  criticism  of  him,  it  is  clear  that  it  is 
a  much  lighter  spell  than  love  which  has  fascinated 
her.  We  do  not  accept  the  catastrophe  which 
sacrifices  a  splendid  life  to  make  a  comfortable 
solution  of  the  practical  difficulty,  and  to  allow 
Sylvia  to  accept  a  happy  home  without  a  thorough 
regeneration  of  heart  and  mind.  But  these  were 
the  natural  mistakes  of  youth  and  inexperience ; 

The  Year  of  Good  Luck.  119 

Louisa  had  known  but  little  of  such  struggles. 
Love  and  marriage  were  rather  uninteresting 
themes  to  her,  and  she  had  not  yet  found  her 
true  power. 

Still  the  book  has  great  literary  merit.  It  is  well 
written,  in  a  more  finished  style  than  any  of  her 
other  work,  except  "Modern  Mephistopheles,"  and 
the  dialogue  is  vigorous  and  sprightly.  In  spite  of 
her  careful  revision  and  pruning,  there  is  something 
left  of  youthful  gush  in  it,  and  this  perhaps  touched 
the  heart  of  young  girls,  who  found  in  Sylvia's 
troubles  with  herself  a  reflection  of  their  own. 

The  "golden  wedding"  scenes  have  some  of  her 
usual  freedom  and  vivacity.  She  is  at  home  with 
a  troop  of  mothers  and  babies  and  noisy  boys. 
But  the  "golden  wedding"  was  a  new  importation 
from  Germany,  and  not  at  home  in  the  New  Eng- 
land farmhouse.  Why  might  it  not  have  been  a 
true  wedding  or  a  harvest  feast? 

Louisa  never  lost  her  interest  in  this  early  work, 
though  it  was  the  most  unlucky  of  books,  and  sub- 
jected to  severe  handling.  It  was  sent  to  and  fro 
from  publisher  to  author,  each  one  suggesting  some 
change.  Redpath  sent  it  back  as  being  too  long. 
Ticknor  found  it  very  interesting,  but  could  not 
use  it  then.  Loring  liked  it,  but  wanted  it  shorter. 
She  condensed  and  altered  until  her  author's  spirit 
rebelled,  and  she  declared  she  would  change  it  no 

After  her  other  books  had  made  her  famous, 
"  Moods >:  was  again  brought  forward  and  repub- 
lished  as  it  was  originally  written.  It  met  with 
warmer  welcome  than  before,  and  a  cheap  edition 

I2O  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

was  published  in  England  to  supply  the  popular 

Miss  Alcott  learned  the  first  painful  lesson  of 
over-work  on  this  book.  She  was  possessed  by  it, 
and  for  three  weeks  labored  so  constantly  that  she 
felt  the  physical  effects  keenly.  Fortunately  new 
household  tasks  (for  the  daughters  of  John  Brown 
came  to  board  with  them),  and  the  enthusiasm  of 
the  time,  changed  the  current  of  her  thoughts. 


February,   1860.  —  Mr. won't  have  "  M.  L.,"  as 

it  is  antislavery,  and  the  dear  South  must  not  be  offended. 
Got  a  carpet  with  my  $50,  and  wild  Louisa's  head  kept 
the  feet  of  the  family  warm. 

March. -- Wrote  "A  Modern  Cinderella,"  with  Nan. 
for  the  heroine  and  John  for  the  hero. 

Made  my  first  ball  dress  for  May,  and  she  was  the 
finest  girl  at  the  party.  My  tall,  blond,  graceful  girl !  I 
was  proud  of  her. 

Wrote  a  song  for  the  school  festival,  and  heard  it  sung 
by  four  hundred  happy  children.  Father  got  up  the 
affair,  and  such  a  pretty  affair  was  never  seen  in  Concord 
before.  He  said,  "  We  spend  much  on  our  cattle  and 
flower  shows ;  let  us  each  spring  have  a  show  of  our 
children,  and  begrudge  nothing  for  their  culture."  All 
liked  it  but  the  old  fogies  who  want  things  as  they  were 
in  the  ark. 

April.  —  Made  two  riding  habits,  and  May  and  I  had 
some  fine  rides.  Both  needed  exercise,  and  this  was 
good  for  us.  So  one  of  our  dreams  came  true,  and  we 
really  did  "  dash  away  on  horseback." 

Sanborn  was  nearly  kidnapped  for  being  a  friend  of 
John  Brown  ;  but  his  sister  and  A.  W.  rescued  him  when 

The   Year  of  Good  Luck.  121 

he  was  handcuffed,  and  the  scamps  drove  off.  Great 
ferment  in  town.  A  meeting  and  general  flurry. 

Had  a  funny  lover  who  met  me  in  the  cars,  and  said 
he  lost  his  heart  at  once.  Handsome  man  of  forty.  A 
Southerner,  and  very  demonstrative  and  gushing,  called 
and  wished  to  pay  his  addresses  ;  and  being  told  I  did  n't 
wish  to  see  him,  retired,  to  write  letters  and  haunt  the 
road  with  his  hat  off,  while  the  girls  laughed  and  had 
great  fun  over  Jo's  lover.  He  went  at  last,  and  peace 
reigned.  My  adorers  are  all  queer. 

Sent  "Cinderella"  to  the  "Atlantic,"  and  it  was  ac- 
cepted. Began  "By  the  River,"  and  thought  that  this 
was  certainly  to  be  a  lucky  year ;  for  after  ten  years  hard 
climbing  I  had  reached  a  good  perch  on  the  ladder,  and 
could  look  more  hopefully  into  the  future,  while  my  paper 
boats  sailed  gaily  over  the  Atlantic. 

May.  —  Meg's  wedding. 

My  farce  was  acted,  and  I  went  to  see  it.  Not  very 
well  done ;  but  I  sat  in  a  box,  and  the  good  Doctor 
handed  up  a  bouquet  to  the  author,  and  made  as  much 
as  he  could  of  a  small  affair. 

Saw  Anna's  honeymoon  home  at  Chelsea,  —  a  little  cot- 
tage in  a  blooming  apple-orchard.  Pretty  place,  simple 
and  sweet.  God  bless  it ! 

The  dear  girl  was  married  on  the  23d,  the  same  day 
as  Mother's  wedding.  A  lovely  day ;  the  house  full  of 
sunshine,  flowers,  friends,  and  happiness.  Uncle  S.  J. 
May  married  them,  with  no  fuss,  but  much  love ;  and  we 
all  stood  round  her.  She  in  her  silver-gray  silk,  with 
lilies  of  the  valley  (John's  flower)  in  her  bosom  and 
hair.  We  in  gray  thin  stuff  and  roses,  -  -  sackcloth,  I 
called  it,  and  ashes  of  roses ;  for  I  mourn  the  loss  of 
my  Nan,  and  am  not  comforted.  We  have  had  a  little 
feast,  sent  by  good  Mrs.  Judge  Shaw ;  then  the  old 

122  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

folks  danced  round  the  bridal  pair  on  the  lawn  in  the 
German  fashion,  making  a  pretty  picture  to  remember, 
under  our  Revolutionary  elm. 

Then,  with  tears  and  kisses,  our  dear  girl,  in  her  little 
white  bonnet,  went  happily  away  with  her  good  John ; 
and  we  ended  our  first  wedding.  Mr.  Emerson  kissed 
her ;  and  I  thought  that  honor  would  make  even  matri- 
mony endurable,  for  he  is  the  god  of  my  idolatry,  and 
has  been  for  years. 

June.  —  To  Boston  to  the  memorial  meeting  for  Mr. 
Parker,  which  was  very  beautiful,  and  proved  how  much 
he  was  beloved.  Music  Hall  was  full  of  flowers  and  sun- 
shine, and  hundreds  of  faces,  both  sad  and  proud,  as  the 
various  speakers  told  the  life  of  love  and  labor  which 
makes  Theodore  Parker's  memory  so  rich  a  legacy  to 
Boston.  I  was  very  glad  to  have  known  so  good  a  man, 
and  been  called  "  friend  "  by  him. 

Saw  Nan  in  her  nest,  where  she  and  her  mate  live 
like  a  pair  of  turtle  doves.  Very  sweet  and  pretty,  but 
I  'd  rather  be  a  free  spinster  and  paddle  my  own  canoe. 

August.  —  "  Moods."  Genius  burned  so  fiercely  that 
for  four  weeks  I  wrote  all  day  and  planned  nearly  all 
night,  being  quite  possessed  by  my  work.  I  was  per- 
fectly happy,  and  seemed  to  have  no  wants.  Finished 
the  book,  or  a  rough  draught  of  it,  and  put  it  away  to 
settle.  Mr.  Emerson  offered  to  read  it  when  Mother 
told  him  it  was  "Moods'  and  had  one  of  his  sayings 
for  motto. 


Daresay  nothing  will  ever  come  of  it ;  but  it  had  to  be 
done,  and  I  'm  the  richer  for  a  new  experience. 

September.  —  Received  $75  of  Ticknor  for  "Cinder- 
ella," and  feel  very  rich.  Emerson  praised  it,  and  people 
wrote  to  me  about  it  and  patted  me  on  the  head.  Paid 
bills,  and  began  to  simmer  another. 

The   Year  of  Good  Luck.  123 

October.  —  I  went  to  B.  and  saw  the  Prince  of  Wales 
trot  over  the  Common  with  his  train  at  a  review.  A 
yellow-haired  laddie  very  like  his  mother.  Fanny  W. 
and  I  nodded  and  waved  as  he  passed,  and  he  openly 
winked  his  boyish  eye  at  us ;  for  Fanny,  with  her  yellow 
curls  and  wild  waving,  looked  rather  rowdy,  and  the  poor 
little  prince  wanted  some  fun.  We  laughed,  and  thought 
that  we  had  been  more  distinguished  by  the  saucy  wink 
than  by  a  stately  bow.  Boys  are  always  jolly, --even 

Read  Richter,  and  enjoyed  him  very  much. 

Mother  went  to  see  Uncle  S.  J.  May,  and  I  was  house- 
keeper. Gave  my  mind  to  it  so  energetically  that  I 
dreamed  dip-toast,  talked  apple-sauce,  thought  pies,  and 
wept  drop-cakes.  Read  my  book  to  Nan,  who  came  up 
to  cheer  me  in  my  struggles ;  and  she  laughed  and  cried 
over  it  and  said  it  was  "  good."  So  I  felt  encouraged, 
and  will  touch  it  up  when  duty  no  longer  orders  me  to 
make  a  burnt- offering  of  myself. 

November.  —  Father  sixty-one  ;  L.  aged  twenty-eight. 
Our  birthday.  Gave  Father  a  ream  of  paper,  and  he  gave 
me  Emerson's  picture ;  so  both  were  happy. 

Wrote  little,  being  busy  with  visitors.  The  John  Brown 
Association  asked  me  for  a  poem,  which  I  wrote. 

Kind  Miss  R.  sent  May  $30  for  lessons,  so  she  went  to 
B.  to  take  some  of  Johnstone.  She  is  one  of  the  for- 
tunate ones,  and  gets  what  she  wants  easily.  I  have  to 
grub  for  my  help,  or  go  without  it.  Good  for  me,  doubt- 
less, or  it  would  n't  be  so  ;  so  cheer  up,  Louisa,  and  grind 
away  ! 

December.  —  More  luck  for  May.  She  wanted  to  go 
to  Syracuse  and  teach,  and  Dr.  W.  sends  for  her,  thanks  to 
Uncle  S.  J.  May.  I  sew  like  a  steam-engine  for  a  week, 
and  get  her  ready.  On  the  iyth  go  to  B.  and  see  our 

124  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

youngest  start  on  her  first  little  flight  alone  into  the  world, 
full  of  hope  and  courage.  May  all  go  well  with  her  ! 

Mr.  Emerson  invited  me  to  his  class  when  they  meet 
to  talk  on  Genius ;  a  great  honor,  as  all  the  learned 
ladies  go. 

Sent  "  Debby's  Debit "  to  the  "  Atlantic,"  and  they 
took  it.  Asked  to  the  John  Brown  meeting,  but  had  no 
"good  gown,"  so  didn't  go;  but  my  "pome"  did,  and 
came  out  in  the  paper.  Not  good.  I  'm  a  better  patriot 
than  poet,  and  could  n't  say  what  I  felt. 

A  quiet  Christmas  ;  no  presents  but  apples  and  flowers. 
No  merry-making ;  for  Nan  and  May  were  gone,  and 
Betty  under  the  snow.  But  we  are  used  to  hard  times, 
and,  as  Mother  says,  "  while  there  is  a  famine  in  Kansas 
we  mustn't  ask  for  sugar- plums." 

All  the  philosophy  in  our  house  is  not  in  the  study ; 
a  good  deal  is  in  the  kitchen,  where  a  fine  old  lady 
thinks  high  thoughts  and  does  kind  deeds  while  she 
cooks  and  scrubs. 

January,  1861.  —  Twenty-eight;  received  thirteen 
New  Year's  gifts.  A  most  uncommon  fit  of  generosity 
seemed  to  seize  people  on  my  behalf,  and  I  was  blessed 
with  all  manner  of  nice  things,  from  a  gold  and  ivory 
pen  to  a  mince-pie  and  a  bonnet. 

Wrote  on  a  new  book  —  "  Success  "  ["  Work  "]  —  till 
Mother  fell  ill,  when  I  corked  up  my  inkstand  and  turned 
nurse.  The  dear  woman  was  very  ill,  but  rose  up  like 
a  phoenix  from  her  ashes  after  what  she  gayly  called 
"  the  irrepressible  conflict  between  sickness  and  the  May 

Father  had  four  talks  at  Emerson's ;  good  people 
came,  and  he  enjoyed  them  much  ;  made  $30.  R.  W.  E. 
probably  put  in  $20.  He  has  a  sweet  way  of  bestowing 
gifts  on  the  table  under  a  book  or  behind  a  candle-stick, 

The   Year  of  Good  Luck.  125 

when  he  thinks  Father  wants  a  little  money,  and  no  one 
will  help  him  earn.  A  true  friend  is  this  tender  and 
illustrious  man. 

Wrote  a  tale  and  put  it  away,  —  to  be  sent  when 
"  Debby  '  comes  out.  "  F.  T."  appeared,  and  I  got  a 
dress,  having  mended  my  six-year  old  silk  till  it  is  more 
patch  and  tear  than  gown.  Made  the  claret  merino  my- 
self, and  enjoyed  it,  as  I  do  anything  bought  with  my 
"  head-money." 

February.  —  Another  turn  at  "  Moods,"  which  I  re- 
modelled. From  the  2cl  to  the  25th  I  sat  writing,  with 
a  run  at  dusk ;  could  not  sleep,  and  for  three  days  was  so 
full  of  it  I  could  not  stop  to  get  up.  Mother  made  me 
a  green  silk  cap  with  a  red  bow,  to  match  the  old  green 
and  red  party  wrap,  which  I  wore  as  a  "  glory  cloak." 
Thus  arrayed  I  sat  in  groves  of  manuscripts,  "  living  for 
immortality,"  as  May  said.  Mother  wandered  in  and  out 
with  cordial  cups  of  tea,  worried  because  I  could  n't  eat. 
Father  thought  it  fine,  and  brought  his  reddest  apples 
and  hardest  cider  for  my  Pegasus  to  feed  upon.  All  sorts 
of  fun  was  going  on ;  but  I  did  n't  care  if  the  world  re- 
turned to  chaos  if  I  and  my  inkstand  only  "lit"  in  the 
same  place. 

It  was  very  pleasant  and  queer  while  it  lasted ;  but 
after  three  weeks  of  it  I  found  that  my  mind  was  too 
rampant  for  my  body,  as  my  head  was  dizzy,  legs  shaky, 
and  no  sleep  would  come.  So  I  dropped  the  pen,  and 
took  long  walks,  cold  baths,  and  had  Nan  up  to  frolic 
with  me.  Read  all  I  had  done  to  my  family ;  and  Father 
said  :  "  Emerson  must  see  this.  Where  did  you  get  your 
metaphysics?'  Mother  pronounced  it  wonderful,  and 
Anna  laughed  and  cried,  as  she  always  does,  over  my 
works,  saying,  "  My  dear,  I  'm  proud  of  you." 

So  I  had  a  good  time,  even  if  it  never  comes  to  any- 

126  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

thing ;  for  it  was  worth  something  to  have  my  three 
dearest  sit  up  till  midnight  listening  with  wide-open 
eyes  to  Lu's  first  novel. 

I  planned  it  some  time  ago,  and  have  had  it  in  my 
mind  ever  so  long ;  but  now  it  begins  to  take  shape. 

Father  had  his  usual  school  festival,  and  Emerson  asked 
me  to  write  a  song,  which  I  did.  On  the  i6th  the  schools 
all  met  in  the  hall  (four  hundred),  —  a  pretty  posy  bed, 
with  a  border  of  proud  parents  and  friends.  Some  of  the 
fogies  objected  to  the  names  Phillips  and  John  Brown. 
But  Emerson  said  :  "  Give  it  up  ?  No,  no  ;  /  will  read 
it."  Which  he  did,  to  my  great  contentment ;  for  when 
the  great  man  of  the  town  says  "  Do  it,"  the  thing  is 
done.  So  the  choir  warbled,  and  the  Alcotts  were  uplifted 
in  their  vain  minds. 

Father  was  in  glory,  like  a  happy  shepherd  with  a  large 
flock  of  sportive  lambs ;  for  all  did  something.  Each 
school  had  its  badge,  —  one  pink  ribbons,  one  green 
shoulder-knots,  and  one  wreaths  of  pop-corn  on  the 
curly  pates.  One  school  to  whom  Father  had  read  Pil- 
grim's Progress  told  the  story,  one  child  after  the  other 
popping  up  to  say  his  or  her  part ;  and  at  the  end  a  little 
tot  walked  forward,  saying  with  a  pretty  air  of  wonder,  — 
"  And  behold  it  was  all  a  dream." 

When  all  was  over,  and  Father  about  to  dismiss  them, 
F.  H.,  a  tall,  handsome  lad  came  to  him,  and  looking  up 
confidingly  to  the  benign  old  face,  asked  "  our  dear  friend 
Mr.  Alcott  to  accept  of  Pilgrim's  Progress  and  George 
Herbert's  Poems  from  the  children  of  Concord,  as  a  token 
of  their  love  and  respect." 

Father  was  much  touched  and  surprised,  and  blushed 
and  stammered  like  a  boy,  hugging  the  fine  books  while 
the  children  cheered  till  the  roof  rung. 

His  report  was  much  admired,  and  a  thousand  copies 

The  Year  of  Good  Luck.  127 

printed  to  supply  the  demand  ;  for  it  was  a  new  thing  to 
have  a  report,  neither  dry  nor  dull ;  and  teachers  were 
glad  of  the  hints  given,  making  education  a  part  of 
religion,  not  a  mere  bread-making  grind  for  teacher  and 
an  irksome  cram  for  children. 

April.  —  War  declared  with  the  South,  and  our  Con- 
cord company  went  to  Washington.  A  busy  time  getting 
them  ready,  and  a  sad  day  seeing  them  off;  for  in  a  little 
town  like  this  we  all  seem  like  one  family  in  times  like 
these.  At  the  station  the  scene  was  very  dramatic,  as  the 
brave  boys  went  away  perhaps  never  to  come  back  again. 

I  Ve  often  longed  to  see  a  war,  and  now  I  have  my 
wish.  I  long  to  be  a  man ;  but  as  I  can't  fight,  I  will 
content  myself  with  working  for  those  who  can. 

Sewed  a  good  deal  getting  May's  summer  things  in 
order,  as  she  sent  for  me  to  make  and  mend  and  buy  and 
send  her  outfit. 

Stories  simmered  in  my  brain,  demanding  to  be  writ ; 
but  I  let  them  simmer,  knowing  that  the  longer  the  divine 
afflatus  was  bottled  up  the  better  it  would  be. 

John  Brown's  daughters  came  to  board,  and  upset 
my  plans  of  rest  and  writing  when  the  report  and  the 
sewing  were  done.  I  had  my  fit  of  woe  up  garret  on 
the  fat  rag-bag,  and  then  put  my  papers  away,  and 
fell  to  work  at  housekeeping.  I  think  disappointment 
must  be  good  for  me,  I  get  so  much  of  it ;  and  the 
constant  thumping  Fate  gives  me  may  be  a  mellowing 
process ;  so  I  shall  be  a  ripe  and  sweet  old  pippin  be- 
fore I  die. 

May.  —  Spent  our  May-day  working  for  our  men,  — 
three  hundred  women  all  sewing  together  at  the  hall  for 
two  days. 

May  will  not  return  to  S.  after  her  vacation  in  July ;  and 
being  a  lucky  puss,  just  as  she  wants  something  to  do, 

128  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

F.  B.  S.  needs  a  drawing  teacher  in  his  school  and  offers 
her  the  place. 

Nan  found  that  I  was  wearing  all  the  old  clothes  she 
and  May  left ;  so  the  two  dear  souls  clubbed  together 
and  got  me  some  new  ones ;  and  the  great  parcel,  with  a 
loving  letter,  came  to  me  as  a  beautiful  surprise. 

Nan  and  John  walked  up  from  Cambridge  for  a  day, 
and  we  all  walked  back.  Took  a  sail  to  the  forts,  and 
saw  our  men  on  guard  there.  Felt  very  martial  and 
Joan-of-Arc-y  as  I  stood  on  the  walls  with  the  flag  flying 
over  me  and  cannon  all  about. 

June.  —  Read  a  good  deal ;  grubbed  in  my  garden, 
and  made  the  old  house  pretty  for  May.  Enjoyed 
Carlyle's  French  Revolution  very  much.  His  earthquaky 
style  suits  me. 

"  Charles  Auchester  '  is  charming,  —  a  sort  of  fairy 
tale  for  grown  people.  Dear  old  "  Evelina,"  as  a  change, 
was  pleasant.  Emerson  recommended  Hodson's  India, 
and  I  got  it,  and  liked  it ;  also  read  Sir  Thomas  More's 
Life.  I  read  Fielding's  "  Amelia,"  and  thought  it  coarse 
and  queer.  The  heroine  having  "  her  lovely  nose  smashed 
all  to  bits  falling  from  a  post  shay '  was  a  new  idea. 
What  some  one  says  of  Richardson  applies  to  Fielding, 
"  The  virtues  of  his  heroes  are  the  vices  of  decent 


July.  —  Spent  a  month  at  the  White  Mountains  with 
L.  W.,  —  a  lovely  time,  and  it  did  me  much  good. 
Mountains  are  restful  and  uplifting  to  my  mind.  Lived 
in  the  woods,  and  revelled  in  brooks,  birds,  pines,  and 

August.  —  May  came  home  very  tired,  but  satisfied 
with  her  first  attempt,  which  has  been  very  successful  in 
every  way.  She  is  quite  a  belle  now,  and  much  improved, 
—  a  tall  blond  lass,  full  of  grace  and  spirit. 


The   Year  of  Good  Luck.  129 

September.  —  Ticknor  sent  $50.  Wrote  a  story  for  C., 
as  Plato  needs  new  shirts,  and  Minerva  a  pair  of  boots, 
and  Hebe  a  fall  hat. 

October.  —  All  together  on  Marmee's  birthday.  Sew- 
ing and  knitting  for  "  our  boys  "  all  the  time.  It  seems 
as  if  a  few  energetic  women  could  carry  on  the  war  better 
than  the  men  do  it  so  far. 

A  week  with  Nan  in  the  dove-cot.  As  happy  as 

November  and  December.  —  Wrote,  read,  sewed,  and 
wanted  something  to  do. 

In  1862,  at  the  •  suggestion  of  Miss  Peabody, 
Miss  Alcott  opened  a  Kindergarten  school;  but 
it  was  not  successful,  and  she  took  a  final  leave 
of  the  teacher's  profession,  and  returned  to  her 
writing,  which  she  found  to  be  her  true  calling. 
She  wrote  much ;  for  "  brain  was  lively,  and 
work  paid  for  readily."  Besides  the  occasional 
stories  in  papers  and  magazines,  her  most  im- 
portant labor  was  the  preparation  of  the  story 
called  "Work,"  or,  as  she  originally  named  it, 
"  Success."  This  story  however  was  not  pub- 
lished until  ten  years  later.  Here  she  took  the 
road  that  was  later  to  lead  to  fame  and  fortune,  by 
writing  from  her  own  experience  of  life.  Christie 
is  Louisa  herself  under  very  thin  disguise ;  and 
all  her  own  experiences,  as  servant,  governess, 
companion,  seamstress,  and  actress  are  brought 
in  to  give  vividness  to  the  picture ;  while  many 
other  persons  may  be  recognized  as  models  for 
her  skilful  portraiture.  The  book  has  always  been 
deservedly  popular. 

130  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

January,  1862.  —  E.  P.  Peabody  wanted  me  to  open 
a  Kindergarten,  and  Mr.  Barnard  gave  a  room  at  the 
Warren  Street  Chapel.  Don't  like  to  teach,  but  take 
what  comes ;  so  when  Mr.  F.  offered  $40  to  fit  up  with, 
twelve  pupils,  and  his  patronage,  I  began. 

Saw  many  great  people,  and  found  them  no  bigger  than 
the  rest  of  the  world,  —  often  not  half  so  good  as  some 
humble  soul  who  made  no  noise.  I  learned  a  good  deal 
in  my  way,  and  am  not  half  so  much  impressed  by  society 
as  before  I  got  a  peep  at  it.  Having  known  Emerson, 
Parker,  Phillips,  and  that  set  of  really  great  and  good 
men  and  women  living  for  the  world's  work  and  service 
of  God,  the  mere  show  people  seem  rather  small  and 
silly,  though  they  shine  well,  and  feel  that  they  are 

February.  —  Visited  about,  as  my  school  did  not  bring 
enough  to  pay  board  and  the  assistant  I  was  made  to 
have,  though  I  did  n't  want  her. 

Went  to  lectures  ;  saw  Booth  at  the  Goulds',  —  a  hand- 
some, shy  man,  glooming  in  a  corner. 

Very  tired  of  this  wandering  life  and  distasteful  work ; 
but  kept  my  word  and  tugged  on. 

Hate  to  visit  people  who  only  ask  me  to  help  amuse 
others,  and  often  longed  for  a  crust  in  a  garret  with  free- 
dom and  a  pen.  I  never  knew  before  what  insolent 
things  a  hostess  can  do,  nor  what  false  positions  poverty 
can  push  one  into. 

April.  -  -  Went  to  and  from  C.  every  day  that  I  might 
be  at  home.  Forty  miles  a  day  is  dull  work ;  but  I  have 
my  dear  people  at  night,  and  am  not  a  beggar. 

Wrote  "  King  of  Clubs,"  — $30.  The  school  having 
no  real  foundation  (as  the  people  who  sent  did  n't  care 
for  Kindergartens,  and  Miss  P.  wanted  me  to  take  pupils 
for  nothing,  to  try  the  new  system),  I  gave  it  up,  as  I 

77^6'   Year  of  Good  Luck.  131 

could  do  much  better  at  something  else.  May  took  my 
place  for  a  month,  that  I  might  keep  my  part  of  the  bar- 
gain ;  and  I  cleaned  house,  and  wrote  a  story  which 
made  more  than  all  my  months  of  teaching.  They  ended 
in  a  wasted  winter  and  a  debt  of  $40,  —  to  be  paid  if  I 
sell  my  hair  to  do  it. 

May.  —  School  finished  for  me,  and  I  paid  Miss  N. 
by  giving  her  all  the  furniture,  and  leaving  her  to  do  as 
she  liked ;  while  I  went  back  to  my  writing,  which  pays 
much  better,  though  Mr.  F.  did  say,  "  Stick  to  your  teach- 
ing ;  you  can't  write."  Being  wilful,  I  said,  "  I  won't 
teach ;  and  I  can  write,  and  I  '11  prove  it." 

Saw  Miss  Rebecca  Harding,  author  of  "  Margret 
Howth,"  which  has  made  a  stir,  and  is  very  good.  A 
handsome,  fresh,  quiet  woman,  who  says  she  never  had 
any  troubles,  though  she  writes  about  woes.  I  told  her 
I  had  had  lots  of  troubles  ;  so  I  write  jolly  tales ;  and  we 
wondered  why  we  each  did  so. 

June,  Jufy,  August.  —  Wrote  a  tale  for  B.,  and  he  lost 
it,  and  would  n't  pay. 

Wrote  two  tales  for  L.  I  enjoy  romancing  to  suit  my- 
self ;  and  though  my  tales  are  silly,  they  are  not  bad ; 
and  my  sinners  always  have  a  good  spot  somewhere.  I 
hope  it  is  good  drill  for  fancy  and  language,  for  I  can  do 
it  fast ;  and  Mr.  L.  says  my  tales  are  so  "  dramatic,  vivid, 
and  full  of  plot,  "  they  are  just  what  he  wants. 

September,  October.  —  Sewing  Bees  and  Lint  Picks  for 
"our  boys  "  kept  us  busy,  and  the  prospect  of  the  first 
grandchild  rejoiced  the  hearts  of  the  family. 

Wrote  much ;  for  brain  was  lively,  and  work  paid  for 
readily.  Rewrote  the  last  story,  and  sent  it  to  L.,  who 
wants  more  than  I  can  send  him.  So,  between  blue 
flannel  jackets  for  "  our  boys  "  and  dainty  slips  for  Louisa 
Caroline  or  John  B.,  Jr.,  as  the  case  may  be,  I  reel  off 

132  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

my  "  thrilling"  tales,  and  mess  up  my  work  in  a  queer 
but  interesting  way. 

War  news  bad.  Anxious  faces,  beating  hearts,  and 
busy  minds. 

I  like  the  stir  in  the  air,  and  long  for  battle  like  a  war- 
horse  when  he  smells  powder.  The  blood  of  the  Mays 
is  up  ! 

After  Anna 's  Marriage. 

SUNDAY  MORN,  1860. 

MY  DEAR  MADAM,  —  The  news  of  the  town  is  as 
follows,  and  I  present  it  in  the  usual  journalesque 
style  of  correspondence.  After  the  bridal  train  had 
departed,  the  mourners  withdrew  to  their  respective 
homes ;  and  the  bereaved  family  solaced  their  woe  by 
washing  dishes  for  two  hours  and  bolting  the  remains  of 
the  funeral  baked  meats.  At  four,  having  got  settled 
down,  we  were  all  routed  up  by  the  appearance  of  a  long 
procession  of  children  filing  down  our  lane,  headed  by 
the  Misses  H.  and  R.  Father  rushed  into  the  cellar,  and 
appeared  with  a  large  basket  of  apples,  which  went  the 
rounds  with  much  effect.  The  light  infantry  formed  in  a 
semi-circle,  and  was  watered  by  the  matron  and  maids. 
It  was  really  a  pretty  sight,  these  seventy  children  loaded 
with  wreaths  and  flowers,  standing  under  the  elm  in  the 
sunshine,  singing  in  full  chorus  the  song  I  wrote  for  them. 
It  was  a  neat  little  compliment  to  the  superintendent  and 
his  daughter,  who  was  glad  to  find  that  her  "pome  "  was 
a  favorite  among  the  "  lads  and  lasses '  who  sang  it 
"  with  cheery  voices,  like  robins  on  the  tree." 

Father  put  the  finishing  stroke  to  the  spectacle  by 
going  off  at  full  speed,  hoppity-skip,  and  all  the  babes 
followed  in  a  whirl  of  rapture  at  the  idea.  He  led  them 
up  and  down  and  round  and  round  till  they  were  tired  ; 

The   Year  of  Good  Luck.  133 

then  they  fell  into  order,  and  with  a  farewell  song  marched 
away,  seventy  of  the  happiest  little  ones  I  ever  wish  to 
see.  We  subsided,  and  fell  into  our  beds  with  the  new 
thought  "  Annie  is  married  and  gone  "  for  a  lullaby,  which 
was  not  very  effective  in  its  results  with  all  parties. 

Thursday  we  set  our  house  in  order,  and  at  two  the 
rush  began.  It  had  gone  abroad  that  Mr.  M.  and  Mrs. 
Captain  Brown  were  to  adorn  the  scene,  so  many  people 
coolly  came  who  were  not  invited,  and  who  had  no  busi- 
ness here.  People  sewed  and  jabbered  till  Mrs.  Brown, 
with  Watson  Brown's  widow  and  baby  came  ;  then  a 
levee  took  place.  The  two  pale  women  sat  silent  and 
serene  through  the  clatter  ;  and  the  bright-eyed,  handsome 
baby  received  the  homage  of  the  multitude  like  a  little 
king,  bearing  the  kisses  and  praises  with  the  utmost  dig- 
nity. He  is  named  Frederick  Watson  Brown,  after  his 
murdered  uncle  and  father,  and  is  a  fair,  heroic-looking 
baby,  with  a  fine  head,  and  serious  eyes  that  look  about 
him  as  if  saying,  "  I  am  a  Brown  !  Are  these  friends  or 
enemies  ?  '  I  wanted  to  cry  once  at  the  little  scene  the 
unconscious  baby  made.  Some  one  caught  and  kissed 
him  rudely ;  he  did  n't  cry,  but  looked  troubled,  and 
rolled  his  great  eyes  anxiously  about  for  some  familiar 
face  to  reassure  him  with  its  smile.  His  mother  was  not 
there  ;  but  though  many  hands  were  stretched  to  him,  he 
turned  to  Grandma  Bridge,  and  putting  out  his  little  arms 
to  her  as  if  she  was  a  refuge,  laughed  and  crowed  as 
he  had  not  done  before  when  she  danced  him  on  her 
knee.  The  old  lady  looked  delighted  ;  and  Freddy  pat- 
ted the  kind  face,  and  cooed  like  a  lawful  descendant  of 
that  pair  of  ancient  turtle  doves. 

When  he  was  safe  back  in  the  study,  playing  alone  at 
his  mother's  feet,  C.  and  I  went  and  worshipped  in  our 
own  way  at  the  shrine  of  John  Brown's  grandson,  kissing 

134  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

him  as  if  he  were  a  little  saint,  and  feeling  highly  hon- 
ored when  he  sucked  our  fingers,  or  walked  on  us  with 
his  honest  little  red  shoes,  much  the  worse  for  wear. 

Well,  the  baby  fascinated  me  so  that  I  forgot  a  raging 
headache  and  forty  gabbling  women  all  in  full  clack.  Mrs. 
Brown,  Sen.,  is  a  tall,  stout  woman,  plain,  but  with  a 
strong,  good  face,  and  a  natural  dignity  that  showed  she 
was  something  better  than  a  "  lady,"  though  she  did 
drink  out  of  her  saucer  and  used  the  plainest  speech. 

The  younger  woman  had  such  a  patient,  heart-broken 
face,  it  was  a  whole  Harper's  Ferry  tragedy  in  a  look. 
When  we  got  your  letter,  Mother  and  I  ran  into  the  study 
to  read  it.  Mother  read  aloud  ;  for  there  were  only  C.,  A., 
I,  and  Mrs.  Brown,  Jr.,  in  the  room.  As  she  read  the 
words  that  were  a  poem  in  their  simplicity  and  happiness, 
the  poor  young  widow  sat  with  tears  rolling  down  her 
face ;  for  I  suppose  it  brought  back  her  own  wedding- 
day,  not  two  years  ago,  and  all  the  while  she  cried  the 
baby  laughed  and  crowed  at  her  feet  as  if  there  was  no 
trouble  in  the  world. 

The  preparations  had  been  made  for  twenty  at  the  ut- 
most ;  so  when  forty  souls  with  the  usual  complement  of 
bodies  appeared,  we  grew  desperate,  and  our  neat  little 
supper  turned  out  a  regular  atea  fight,"  A.,  C.,  B.,  and 
I  rushed  like  comets  to  and  fro  trying  to  fill  the  multi- 
tude that  would  eat  fast  and  drink  like  sponges.  I  filled 
a  big  plate  with  all  I  could  lay  hands  on,  and  with  two 
cups  of  tea,  strong  enough  for  a  dozen,  charged  upon  Mr. 
E.  and  Uncle  S.,  telling  them  to  eat,  drink,  and  be  merry, 
for  a  famine  was  at  hand.  They  cuddled  into  a  corner ; 
and  then,  feeling  that  my  mission  was  accomplished,  I  let 
the  hungry  wait  and  the  thirsty  moan  for  tea,  while  I 
picked  out  and  helped  the  regular  Antislavery  set. 

We  got  through  it ;  but  it  was  an  awful  hour ;  and 

The  Year  of  Good  Luck.  135 

Mother  wandered  in  her  mind,  utterly  lost  in  a  grove  of 
teapots  ;  while  B.  pervaded  the  neighborhood  demanding 
hot  water,  and  we  girls  sowed  cake  broadcast  through  the 

When  the  plates  were  empty  and  the  teapots  dry,  peo- 
ple wiped  their  mouths  and  confessed  at  last  that  they 
had  done.  A  conversation  followed,  in  which  Grandpa  B. 
and  E.  P.  P.  held  forth,  and  Uncle  and  Father  mildly 
upset  the  world,  and  made  a  new  one  in  which  every  one 
desired  to  take  a  place.  Dr.  B.,  Mr.  B.,  T.,  etc.,  ap- 
peared, and  the  rattle  continued  till  nine,  when  some 
Solomon  suggested  that  the  Alcotts  must  be  tired,  and 
every  one  departed  but  C.  and  S.  We  had  a  polka  by 
Mother  and  Uncle,  the  lancers  by  C.  and  B.,  and  an 
etude  by  S.,  after  which  scrabblings  of  feast  appeared, 
and  we  "drained  the  dregs  of  every  cup,"  all  cakes  and 
pies  we  gobbled  up,  etc. ;  then  peace  fell  upon  us,  and 
our  remains  were  interred  decently. 




WE  sighing  said,  "  Our  Pan  is  dead  ; 

His  pipe  hangs  mute  beside  the  river; 

Around  it  wistful  sunbeams  quiver, 
But  Music's  airy  voice  is  fled. 
Spring  mourns  as  for  untimely  frost; 

The  bluebird  chants  a  requiem; 

The  willow-blossom  waits  for  him  ;  — 
The  Genius  of  the  wood  is  lost." 

Then  from  the  flute,  untouched  by  hands. 
There  came  a  low,  harmonious  breath : 
" For  such  as  he  there  is  no  death;  — 

His  life  the  eternal  life  commands ; 

Above  man's  aims  his  nature  rose. 
The  wisdom  of  a  just  content 
Made  one  small  spot  a  continent, 

And  tuned  to  poetry  life's  prose. 

"  Haunting  the  hills,  the  stream,  the  wild, 
Swallow  and  aster,  lake  and  pine, 
To  him  grew  human  or  divine,  — 

Fit  mates  for  this  large-hearted  child. 

Such  homage  Nature  ne'er  forgets, 
And  yearly  on  the  coverlid 
'Neath  which  her  darling  lieth  hid 

Will  write  his  name  in  violets. 

"  To  him  no  vain  regrets  belong 

Whose  soul,  that  finer  instrument, 
Gave  to  the  world  no  poor  lament, 

But  wood-notes  ever  sweet  and  strong. 

O  lonely  friend !  he  still  will  be 
A  potent  presence,  though  unseen,  — 
Steadfast,  sagacious,  and  serene  ; 

Seek  not  for  him  —  he  is  with  thee." 

Hospital  Sketches.  137 

MISS  ALCOTT  could  not  help  feeling  deeply 
the  excitement  of  the  hour  when  the  war 
broke  out.  Her  father  had  been  one  of  the  earliest 
Abolitionists,  having  joined  the  Antislavery  Soci 
ety  with  Garrison,  and  she  well  remembered  the 
fugitive  slave  whom  her  mother  had  hidden  in  the 


oven.  Now  this  feeling  could  be  united  with  her 
patriotic  zeal  and  her  strong  love  of  active  life,  and 
it  was  inevitable  that  she  should  long  to  share  per- 
sonally in  the  dangers  and  excitement  of  the  war. 

Louisa  had  always  been  the  nurse  in  the  family, 
and  had  by  nature  the  magnetic  power  which 
encourages  and  helps  the  feeble  and  suffering; 
therefore,  since  no  other  way  of  serving  the  cause 
opened  to  her,  it  was  most  like  her  to  take  her 
own  life  in  her  hands  and  join  the  corps  of  devoted 
nurses.  She  was  accepted,  and  went  to  Washing- 
ton. Her  journal  gives  an  account  of  her  situa- 
tion in  the  Union  Hospital  at  Georgetown.  It  was 
a  small  hospital,  much  inferior  in  its  appointments 
to  those  which  were  afterward  arranged.  Al- 
though Louisa  had  never  been  very  ill  up  to  that 
time,  and  thought  herself  exceptionally  strong,  yet 
she  had  not  the  rugged  constitution  fit  to  bear  the 
labors  and  exposures  of  such  a  position ;  and  the 
healthful  habits  of  outdoor  life  and  simple  food  to 
which  she  had  always  been  accustomed  made  the 
conditions  of  the  crowded,  ill-ventilated  hospital 
peculiarly  perilous  to  her.  She  says,  "  I  was  never 
ill  before  this  time,  and  never  well  afterward." 

But  with  all  its  hardships,  Miss  Alcott  found  in 
the  hospital  the  varied  and  intense  human  life  she 
had  longed  to  know.  Her  great  heart  went  out  to 

138  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

all  the  men,  black  or  white,  the  Virginia  blacksmith 
and  the  rough  Michigander.  She  even  tried  to 
befriend  the  one  solitary  rebel  who  had  got  left 
behind,  and  who  was  taken  into  the  hospital  to  the 
disgust  of  some  of  the  men  ;  but  he  was  imper- 
vious to  all  kindness,  and  she  could  find  nothing 
in  him  for  sympathy  or  romance  to  fasten  upon. 

Miss  Alcott  remained  in  the  hospital  only  about 
six  weeks.  Yet  this  short  period  had  a  very  strong 
influence,  both  for  good  and  evil,  on  her  future 
life.  The  severe  attack  of  fever  which  drove  her 
from  her  post  left  her  with  shattered  nerves  and 
weakened  constitution,  and  she  never  again  knew 
the  fulness  of  life  and  health  which  she  had  be- 
fore. The  chamber  in  her  quiet  home  at  Concord 
was  evermore  haunted  by  the  fearful  visions  of  de- 
lirium, and  she  could  not  regain  there  the  peace 
she  needed  for  work.  But  the  experience  of  life, 
the  observation  of  men  under  the  excitement  of 
war,  the  way  in  which  they  met  the  great  con- 
queror Death,  the  revelations  of  heroism  and  love, 
and  sometimes  of  bitterness  and  hate,  brought 
her  a  deeper  insight  into  human  life  than  she 
ever  had  before,  and  gave  to  her  writings  greater 

Louisa  constantly  wrote  to  the  family  of  her 
experiences,  and  these  letters  were  so  interesting 
that  she  was  persuaded  to  publish  them  in  the 
"Commonwealth"  newspaper.  They  attracted 
great  attention,  and  first  made  her  widely  and 
favorably  known  to  a  higher  public  than  that 
which  had  read  her  stories. 

These  letters  were  published  by  James  Redpath 

Hospital  Sketches.  139 

in  book  form,  and  Miss  Alcott  received  $200  for 
the  book,  —  a  welcome  sum  to  her  at  that  time. 
The  sketches  are  almost  a  literal  reproduction  of 
her  letters  to  her  family;  but  as  they  have  been 
so  extensively  read,  and  are  accessible  to  every 
one,  I  shall  give  in  preference  to  them  extracts 
from  her  journal  kept  at  the  hospital.  Other 
stories  growing  out  of  her  experience  in  the  hos- 
pital, or  more  remotely  connected  with  it,  have 
been  published  in  the  same  volume  in  later  edi- 
tions. "  My  Contraband  "  is  one  of  the  most  dra- 
matic and  powerful  stories  she  ever  wrote.  She 
portrays  the  intensity  of  hatred  in  a  noble  na- 
ture, - -hatred  justified  by  the  provocation,  and 
yet  restrained  from  fatal  execution  by  the  highest 
suggestions  of  religion.  This  story  called  forth  a 
letter  of  commendation  and  frank  criticism  from 
Col.  T.  W.  Higginson,  which  was  very  encouraging 
to  the  young  writer. 

The  beautiful  lines  on  Thoreau's  flute,  the  most 
perfect  of  her  poems,  excepting  the  exquisite  trib- 
ute to  her  mother,  were  first  composed  in  the 
watches  of  the  night  in  the  hospital,  and  after- 
wards recalled  during  the  tedious  days  of  conva- 
lescence at  Concord.  This  poem  was  printed  in 
the  "  Atlantic,"  and  brought  her  a  welcome  ten- 
dollar  bill. 

"  Hospital  Sketches '  were  hastily  written,  and 
with  little  regard  to  literary  execution,  but  they 
are  fresh  and  original,  and,  still  more,  they  are 
true,  and  they  appeared  at  just  the  time  the  public 
wanted  them.  Every  heart  was  longing  to  hear 
not  only  from  field  and  camp,  but  from  the  hospi- 

140  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

tals,  where  sons  and  brothers  were  tenderly  cared 
for.  The  generous,  hopeful  spirit  with  which  Miss 
Alcott  entered  into  the  work  was  recognized  as 
that  which  animated  the  brave  corps  of  women 
who  answered  so  promptly  to  their  country's  call, 
and  every  loyal  and  loving  heart  vibrated  in  unison 
with  the  strings  she  touched  so  skilfully. 

Journal  kept  at  the  Hospital,  Georgetown,  D.  C., 


November.  —  Thirty  years  old.  Decided  to  go  to 
Washington  as  nurse  if  I  could  find  a  place.  Help 
needed,  and  I  love  nursing,  and  must  let  out  my  pent-up 
energy  in  some  new  way.  Winter  is  always  a  hard  and  a 
dull  time,  and  if  I  am  away  there  is  one  less  to  feed  and 
warm  and  worry  over. 

I  want  new  experiences,  and  am  sure  to  get  'em  if  I 
go.  So  I  Ve  sent  in  my  name,  and  bide  my  time  writing 
tales,  to  leave  all  snug  behind  me,  and  mending  up  my 
old  clothes,  —  for  nurses  don't  need  nice  things,  thank 
Heaven  ! 

December.  —  On  the  nth  I  received  a  note  from  Miss 
H.  M.  Stevenson  telling  me  to  start  for  Georgetown  next 
day  to  fill  a  place  in  the  Union  Hotel  Hospital.  Mrs. 
Ropes  of  Boston  was  matron,  and  Miss  Kendall  of  Ply- 
mouth was  a  nurse  there,  and  though  a  hard  place,  help 
was  needed.  I  was  ready,  and  when  my  commander 
said  "  March  !  "  I  marched.  Packed  my  trunk,  and 
reported  in  B.  that  same  evening. 

We  had  all  been  full  of  courage  till  the  last  moment 
came ;  then  we  all  broke  down.  I  realized  that  I  had 
taken  my  life  in  my  hand,  and  might  never  see  them  all 
again.  I  said,  "  Shall  I  stay,  Mother?  "  as  I  hugged  her 


Hospital  Sketches.  141 

close.  "  No,  go  !  and  the  Lord  be  with  you  ! '  answered 
the  Spartan  woman ;  and  till  I  turned  the  corner  she 
bravely  smiled  and  waved  her  wet  handkerchief  on  the 
door-step.  Shall  I  ever  see  that  dear  old  face  again? 

So  I  set  forth  in  the  December  twilight,  with  May  and 
Julian  Hawthorne  as  escort,  feeling  as  if  I  was  the  son  of 
the  house  going  to  war. 

Friday,  the  i2th,  was  a  very  memorable  day,  spent  in 
running  all  over  Boston  to  get  my  pass,  etc.,  calling  for 
parcels,  getting  a  tooth  filled,  and  buying  a  veil,  —  my 
only  purchase.  A.  C.  gave  me  some  old  clothes ;  the 
dear  Sewalls  money  for  myself  and  boys,  lots  of  love 
and  help  ;  and  at  5  p.  M.,  saying  "  good-by '  to  a  group 
of  tearful  faces  at  the  station,  I  started  on  my  long  jour- 
ney, full  of  hope  and  sorrow,  courage  and  plans. 

A  most  interesting  journey  into  a  new  world  full  of 
stirring  sights  and  sounds,  new  adventures,  and  an  ever- 
growing sense  of  the  great  task  I  had  undertaken. 

I  said  my  prayers  as  I  went  rushing  through  the  coun- 
try white  with  tents,  all  alive  with  patriotism,  and  already 
red  with  blood. 

A  solemn  time,  but  I  'm  glad  to  live  in  it ;  and  am 
sure  it  will  do  me  good  whether  I  come  out  alive  or 

All  went  well,  and  I  got  to  Georgetown  one  evening 
very  tired.  Was  kindly  welcomed,  slept  in  my  narrow 
bed  with  two  other  room-mates,  and  on  the  morrow  be- 
gan my  new  life  by  seeing  a  poor  man  die  at  dawn,  and 
sitting  all  day  between  a  boy  with  pneumonia  and  a  man 
shot  through  the  lungs.  A  strange  day,  but  I  did  my 
best ;  and  when  I  put  mother's  little  black  shawl  round 
the  boy  while  he  sat  up  panting  for  breath,  he  smiled 
and  said,  "  You  are  real  motherly,  ma'am."  I  felt  as  if 
I  was  getting  on.  The  man  only  lay  and  stared  with  his 

142  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

big  black  eyes,  and  made  me  very  nervous.  But  all  were 
well  behaved ;  and  I  sat  looking  at  the  twenty  strong 
faces  as  they  looked  back  at  me,  —  the  only  new  thing 
they  had  to  amuse  them,  —  hoping  that  I  looked  "moth- 
erly '  to  them  ;  for  my  thirty  years  made  me  feel  old, 
and  the  suffering  round  me  made  me  long  to  comfort 
every  one. 

Jamiary,  1863.  Union  Hotel  Hospital,  Georgetown, 
D.  C.-  - 1  never  began  the  year  in  a  stranger  place 
than  this  :  five  hundred  miles  from  home,  alone,  among 
strangers,  doing  painful  duties  all  day  long,  and  leading 
a  life  of  constant  excitement  in  this  great  house,  sur- 
rounded by  three  or  four  hundred  men  in  all  stages  of 
suffering,  disease,  and  death.  Though  often  homesick, 
heartsick,  and  worn  out,  I  like  it,  find  real  pleasure  in 
comforting,  tending,  and  cheering  these  poor  souls  who 
seem  to  love  me,  to  feel  my  sympathy  though  unspoken, 
and  acknowledge  my  hearty  good-will,  in  spite  of  the 
ignorance,  awkwardness,  and  bashfulness  which  I  cannot 
help  showing  in  so  new  and  trying  a  situation.  The  men 
are  docile,  respectful,  and  affectionate,  with  but  few  ex- 
ceptions ;  truly  lovable  and  manly  many  of  them.  John 
Sulie,  a  Virginia  blacksmith,  is  the  prince  of  patients ; 
and  though  what  we  call  a  common  man  in  education 
and  condition,  to  me  is  all  I  could  expect  or  ask  from 
the  first  gentleman  in  the  land.  Under  his  plain  speech 
and  unpolished  manner  I  seem  to  see  a  noble  character, 
a  heart  as  warm  and  tender  as  a  woman's,  a  nature  fresh 
and  frank  as  any  child's.  He  is  about  thirty,  I  think, 
tall  and  handsome,  mortally  wounded,  and  dying  royally 
without  reproach,  repining,  or  remorse.  Mrs.  Ropes 
and  myself  love  him,  and  feel  indignant  that  such  a  man 
should  be  so  early  lost ;  for  though  he  might  never  dis- 
tinguish himself  before  the  world,  his  influence  and  ex- 

Hospital  Sketches.  143 

ample  cannot  be  without  effect,  for  real  goodness  is  never 

Monday,  ^th.  —  I  shall  record  the  events  of  a  day  as 
a  sample  of  the  days  I  spend  :  — 

Up  at  six,  dress  by  gaslight,  run  through  my  ward  and 
throw  up  the  windows,  though  the  men  grumble  and 
shiver ;  but  the  air  is  bad  enough  to  breed  a  pestilence ; 
and  as  no  notice  is  taken  of  our  frequent  appeals  for 
better  ventilation,  I  must  do  what  I  can.  Poke  up  the 
fire,  add  blankets,  joke,  coax,  and  command  ;  but  con- 
tinue to  open  doors  and  windows  as  if  life  depended 
upon  it.  Mine  does,  and  doubtless  many  another,  for 
a  more  perfect  pestilence-box  than  this  house  I  never 
saw,  —  cold,  damp,  dirty,  full  of  vile  odors  from  wounds, 
kitchens,  wash-rooms,  and  stables.  No  competent  head, 
male  or  female,  to  right  matters,  and  a  jumble  of  good, 
bad,  and  indifferent  nurses,  surgeons,  and  attendants,  to 
complicate  the  chaos  still  more. 

After  this  unwelcome  progress  through  my  stifling 
ward,  I  go  to  breakfast  with  what  appetite  I  may ;  find 
the  uninvitable  fried  beef,  salt  butter,  husky  bread,  and 
washy  coffee  ;  listen  to  the  clack  of  eight  women  and  a 
dozen  men,  —  the  first  silly,  stupid,  or  possessed  of  one 
idea ;  the  last  absorbed  with  their  breakfast  and  them- 
selves to  a  degree  that  is  bot£  ludicrous  and  provoking, 
for  all  the  dishes  are  ordered  down  the  table  /////  and 
returned  empty;  the  conversation  is  entirely  among 
themselves,  and  each  announces  his  opinion  with  an  air 
of  importance  that  frequently  causes  me  to  choke  in  my 
cup,  or  bolt  my  meals  with  undignified  speed  lest  a  laugh 
betray  to  these  famous  beings  that  a  "  chiel  's  amang 
them  takin'  notes." 

Till  noon  I  trot,  trot,  giving  out  rations,  cutting  up 
food  for  helpless  "  boys,"  washing  faces,  teaching  my 

144  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

attendants  how  beds  are  made  or  floors  are  swept,  dress- 
ing wounds,  taking  Dr.  F.  P.'s  orders  (privately  wishing 
all  the  time  that  he  would  be  more  gentle  with  my  big 
babies),  dusting  tables,  sewing  bandages,  keeping  my 
tray  tidy,  rushing  up  and  down  after  pillows,  bed-linen, 
sponges,  books,  and  directions,  till  it  seems  as  if  I  would 
joyfully  pay  down  all  I  possess  for  fifteen  minutes'  rest. 
At  twelve  the  big  bell  rings,  and  up  comes  dinner  for  the 
boys,  who  are  always  ready  for  it  and  never  entirely  satis- 
fied. Soup,  meat,  potatoes,  and  bread  is  the  bill  of  fare. 
Charley  Thayer,  the  attendant,  travels  up  and  down  the 
room  serving  out  the  rations,  saving  little  for  himself,  yet 
always  thoughtful  of  his  mates,  and  patient  as  a  woman 
with  their  helplessness.  When  dinner  is  over,  some  sleep, 
many  read,  and  others  want  letters  written.  This  I  like 
to  do,  for  they  put  in  such  odd  things,  and  express  their 
ideas  so  comically,  I  have  great  fun  interiorally,  while  as 
grave  as  possible  exteriorally.  A  few  of  the  men  word 
their  paragraphs  well  and  make  excellent  letters.  John's 
was  the  best  of  all  I  wrote.  The  answering  of  letters 
from  friends  after  some  one  had  died  is  the  saddest  and 
hardest  duty  a  nurse  has  to  do. 

Supper  at  five  sets  every  one  to  running  that  can  run ; 
and  when  that  flurry  is  over,  all  settle  down  for  the  eve- 
ning amusements,  which  consist  of  newspapers,  gossip, 
the  doctor's  last  round,  and,  for  such  as  need  them,  the 
final  doses  for  the  night.  At  nine  the  bell  rings,  gas  is 
turned  down,  and  day  nurses  go  to  bed.  Night  nurses 
go  on  duty,  and  sleep  and  death  have  the  house  to 

My  work  is  changed  to  night  watching,  or  half  night 
and  half  day,  -  -  from  twelve  to  twelve.  I  like  it,  as  it 
leaves  me  time  for  a  morning  run,  which  is  what  I  need 
to  keep  well ;  for  bad  air,  food,  and  water,  work  and 

Hospital  Sketches.  145 

watching,  are  getting  to  be  too  much  for  me.  I  trot  up 
and  down  the  streets  in  all  directions,  sometimes  to  the 
Heights,  then  half  way  to  Washington,  again  to  the  hill, 
over  which  the  long  trains  of  army  wagons  are  constantly 
vanishing  and  ambulances  appearing.  That  way  the  fight- 
ing lies,  and  I  long  to  follow. 

Ordered  to  keep  my  room,  being  threatened  with 
pneumonia.  Sharp  pain  in  the  side,  cough,  fever,  and 
dizziness.  A  pleasant  prospect  for  a  lonely  soul  five 
hundred  miles  from  home  !  Sit  and  sew  on  the  boys' 
clothes,  write  letters,  sleep,  and  read ;  try  to  talk  and 
keep  merry,  but  fail  decidedly,  as  day  after  day  goes,  and 
I  feel  no  better.  Dream  awfully,  and  wake  unrefreshed, 
think  of  home,  and  wonder  if  I  am  to  die  here,  as  Mrs. 
R.,  the  matron,  is  likely  to  do.  Feel  too  miserable  to 
care  much  what  becomes  of  me.  Dr.  S.  creaks  up  twice 
a  day  to  feel  my  pulse,  give  me  doses,  and  ask  if  I  am 
at  all  consumptive,  or  some  other  cheering  question. 
Dr.  O.  examines  my  lungs  and  looks  sober.  Dr.  J. 
haunts  the  room,  coming  by  day  and  night  with  wood, 
cologne,  books,  and  messes,  like  a  motherly  little  man  as 
he  is.  Nurses  fussy  and  anxious,  matron  dying,  and 
everything  very  gloomy.  They  want  me  to  go  home, 
but  I  won't  yet. 

January  i6th.  —  Was  amazed  to  see  Father  enter  the 
room  that  morning,  having  been  telegraphed  to  by  order 
of  Mrs.  R.  without  asking  leave.  I  was  very  angry  at 
first,  though  glad  to  see  him,  because  I  knew  I  should 
have  to  go.  Mrs.  D.  and  Miss  Dix  came,  and  pretty 
Miss  W.,  to  take  me  to  Willard's  to  be  cared  for  by  them. 
I  would  n't  go,  preferring  to  keep  still,  being  pretty  ill  by 
that  time. 

On  the  2ist  I  suddenly  decided  to  go  home,  feeling 
very  strangely,  and  dreading  to  be  worse.  Mrs.  R.  died, 


140  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

and  that  frightened  the  doctors  about  me  j  for  my  trouble 
was  the  same,  —  typhoid  pneumonia.  Father,  Miss  K., 
and  Lizzie  T.  went  with  me.  Miss  Dix  brought  a  basket 
full  of  bottles  of  wine,  tea,  medicine,  and  cologne,  besides 
a  little  blanket  and  pillow,  a  fan,  and  a  testament.  She 
is  a  kind  old  soul,  but  very  queer  and  arbitrary. 

Was  very  sorry  to  go,  and  "  my  boys  "  seemed  sorry 
to  have  me.  Quite  a  flock  came  to  see  me  off;  but 
I  was  too  sick  to  have  but  a  dim  idea  of  what  was 
going  on. 

Had  a  strange,  excited  journey  of  a  day  and  night,  — 
half  asleep,  half  wandering,  just  conscious  that  I  was 
going  home ;  and,  when  I  got  to  Boston,  of  being  taken 
out  of  the  car,  with  people  looking  on  as  if  I  was  a  sight. 
I  daresay  I  was  all  blowzed,  crazy,  and  weak.  Was  too 
sick  to  reach  Concord  that  night,  though  we  tried  to  do 
so.  Spent  it  at  Mr.  SewalPs  ;  had  a  sort  of  fit ;  they 
sent  for  Dr.  H.,  and  I  had  a  dreadful  time  of  it. 

Next  morning  felt  better,  and  at  four  went  home. 
Just  remember  seeing  May's  shocked  face  at  the  depot, 
Mother's  bewildered  one  at  home,  and  getting  to  bed  in 
the  firm  belief  that  the  house  was  roofless,  and  no  one 
wanted  to  see  me. 

As  I  never  shall  forget  the  strange  fancies  that  haunted 
me,  I  shall  amuse  myself  with  recording  some  of  them. 

The  most  vivid  and  enduring  was  the  conviction  that  I 
had  married  a  stout,  handsome  Spaniard,  dressed  in  black 
velvet,  with  very  soft  hands,  and  a  voice  that  was  con- 
tinually saying,  «  Lie  still,  my  dear  !  "  This  was  Mother, 
I  suspect ;  but  with  all  the  comfort  I  often  found  in  her 
presence,  there  was  blended  an  awful  fear  of  the  Spanish 
spouse  who  was  always  coming  after  me,  appearing  out 
of  closets,  in  at  windows,  or  threatening  me  dreadfully 
all  night  long.  I  appealed  to  the  Pope,  and  really  got 

Hospital  Sketches.  147 

up  and  made  a  touching  plea  in  something  meant  for 
Latin,  they  tell  me.  Once  I  went  to  heaven,  and  found 
it  a  twilight  place,  with  people  darting  through  the  air  in 
a  queer  way,  -  -  all  very  busy,  and  dismal,  and  ordinary. 
Miss  Dix,  W.  H.  Channing,  and  other  people  were  there  ; 
but  I  thought  it  dark  and  "slow,"  and  wished  I  hadn't 


A  mob  at  Baltimore  breaking  down  the  door  to  get 
me,  being  hung  for  a  witch,  burned,  stoned,  and  other- 
wise maltreated,  were  some  of  my  fancies.  Also  being 
tempted  to  join  Dr.  W.  and  two  of  the  nurses  in  wor- 
shipping the  Devil.  Also  tending  millions  of  rich  men 
who  never  died  or  got  well. 

February.-  -Recovered  my  senses  after  three  weeks 
of  delirium,  and  was  told  I  had  had  a  very  bad  typhoid 
fever,  had  nearly  died,  and  was  still  very  sick.  All  of 
which  seemed  rather  curious,  for  I  remembered  nothing 
of  it.  Found  a  queer,  thin,  big- eyed  face  when  I  looked 
in  the  glass;  didn't  know  myself  at  all;  and  when  I 
tried  to  walk  discovered  that  I  could  n't,  and  cried  be- 
cause my  legs  wouldn't  go. 

Never  having  been  sick  before,  it  was  all  new  and  very 
interesting  when  I  got  quiet  enough  to  understand  mat- 
ters. Such  long,  long  nights;  such  feeble,  idle  days; 
dozing,  fretting  about  nothing;  longing  to  eat,  and  no 
mouth  to  do  it  with,  -  -  mine  being  so  sore,  and  full  of  all 
manner  of  queer  sensations,  it  was  nothing  but  a  plague. 
The  old  fancies  still  lingered,  seeming  so  real  I  believed 
in  them,  and  deluded  Mother  and  May  with  the  most 
absurd  stories,  so  soberly  told  that  they  thought  them 


Dr.  B.  came  every  day,  and  was  very  kind.  Father 
and  Mother  were  with  me  night  and  day,  and  May  sang 
"  Birks  of  Aberfeldie,"  or  read  to  me,  to  wile  away  the 

148  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

tiresome  hours.  People  sent  letters,  money,  kind  in- 
quiries, and  goodies  for  the  old  "  Nuss."  I  tried  to  sew, 
read,  and  write,  and  found  I  had  to  begin  all  over  again. 
Received  $  i  o  for  my  labors  in  Washington.  Had  all  my 
hair,  a  yard  and  a  half  long,  cut  off,  and  went  into  caps 
like  a  grandma.  Felt  badly  about  losing  my  one  beauty. 
Never  mind,  it  might  have  been  my  head,  and  a  wig 
outside  is  better  than  a  loss  of  wits  inside. 

March.  —  Began  to  get  about  a  little,  sitting  up  nearly 
all  day,  eating  more  regularly,  and  falling  back  into  my 
old  ways.  My  first  job  was  characteristic  :  I  cleared 
out  my  piece-bags  and  dusted  my  books,  feeling  as  tired 
as  if  I  had  cleaned  the  whole  house.  Sat  up  till  nine 
one  night,  and  took  no  lunch  at  three  A.  M.,  —  two  facts 
which  I  find  carefully  recorded  in  my  pocket  diary  in  my 
own  shaky  handwriting. 

Father  had  two  courses  of  conversations  :  one  at  Mr. 
Quincy's,  very  select  and  fine ;  the  other  at  a  hall  not  so 
good.  He  was  tired  out  with  taking  care  of  me,  poor 
old  gentleman ;  and  typhus  was  not  inspiring. 

Read  a  great  deal,  being  too  feeble  to  do  much  else. 
No  end  of  rubbish,  with  a  few  good  things  as  ballast. 
"Titan"  was  the  one  I  enjoyed  the  most,  though  it  tired 
my  weak  wits  to  read  much  at  a  time.  Recalled,  and 
wrote  some  lines  on  "Thoreau's  Flute,"  which  I  com- 
posed one  night  on  my  watch  by  little  Shaw  at  the 

On  the  28th  Father  came  home  from  Boston,  bringing 
word  that  Nan  had  a  fine  boy.  We  all  screamed  out 
when  he  burst  in,  snowy  and  beaming ;  then  Mother 
began  to  cry,  May  to  laugh,  and  I  to  say,  like  B.  Trot- 
wood,  "  There,  I  knew  it  wouldn't  be  a  girl  ! '  We  were 
all  so  glad  it  was  safely  over,  and  a  jolly  little  lad  was 
added  to  the  feminine  family. 

Hospital  Sketches.  149 

Mother  went  straight  down,  to  be  sure  that  "  mother 
and  child  were  doing  well,"  and  I  fell  to  cleaning  house, 
as  good  work  for  an  invalid  and  a  vent  for  a  happy 

First  Birth  in  the  Alcott  and  Pratt  BrancJi,  1863. 


DEAREST  LITTLE  MOTHER,  —  Allow  me  to  ask  who 
was  a  true  prophet. 

Also  to  demand,  "Where  is  my  niece,  Louisa  Caro- 

No  matter,  I  will  forgive  you,  and  propose  three  cheers 
for  my  nephew.  Hurrah  !  hurrah  !  Hurray  ! 

I  wish  you  could  have  seen  the  performance  on  Satur- 
day evening. 

We  were  all  sitting  deep  in  a  novel,  not  expecting 
Father  home  owing  to  the  snowstorm,  when  the  door 
burst  open,  and  in  he  came,  all  wet  and  white,  waving 
his  bag,  and  calling  out,  "  Good  news  !  good  news ! 
Anna  has  a  fine  boy  ! ' 

With  one  accord  we  opened  our  mouths  and  screamed 
for  about  two  minutes.  Then  Mother  began  to  cry ;  I 
began  to  laugh ;  and  May  to  pour  out  questions ;  while 
Papa  beamed  upon  us  all,  —  red,  damp,  and  shiny,  the 
picture  of  a  proud  old  Grandpa.  Such  a  funny  evening 
as  we  had  !  Mother  kept  breaking  down,  and  each  time 
emerged  from  her  handkerchief  saying  solemnly,  "  I  must 
go  right  down  and  see  that  baby  !  '  Father  had  told 
every  one  he  met,  from  Mr.  Emerson  to  the  coach  driver, 
and  went  about  the  house  saying,  "  Anna's  boy  !  yes, 
yes,  Anna's  boy  ! '  in  a  mild  state  of  satisfaction. 

May  and  I  at  once  taxed  our  brains  for  a  name,  and 
decided  upon  "  Amos  Minot  Bridge  Bronson  May  Sewall 
Alcott  Pratt,"  so  that  all  the  families  would  be  suited. 

150  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

I  was  so  anxious  to  hear  more  that  I  went  up  to  town 
this  A.  M.  and  found  John's  note. 

Grandma  and  Grandpa  Pratt  came  to  hear  the  great 
news ;  but  we  could  only  inform  them  of  the  one  tre- 
mendous fact,  that  Pratt,  Jr.,  had  condescended  to  arrive. 
Now  tell  us  his  weight,  inches,  color,  etc. 

I  know  I  shall  fall  down  and  adore  when  I  see  that 
mite ;  yet  my  soul  is  rent  when  I  think  of  the  L.  C.  on 
the  pincushion,  and  all  the  plans  I  had  made  for  "  my 


Now  get  up  quickly,  and  be  a  happy  mamma.  Of 
course  John  does  not  consider  his  son  as  the  most  amaz- 
ing product  of  the  nineteenth  century. 

Bless  the  baby  ! 

Ever  your  admiring  Lu. 

April.  —  Had  some  pleasant  walks  and  drives,  and  felt 
as  if  born  again,  everything  seemed  so  beautiful  and  new. 
I  hope  I  was,  and  that  the  Washington  experience  may 
do  me  lasting  good.  To  go  very  near  to  death  teaches 
one  to  value  life,  and  this  winter  will  always  be  a  very 
memorable  one  to  me. 

Sewed  on  little  shirts  and  gowns  for  my  blessed 
nephew,  who  increased  rapidly  in  stature  and  godliness. 

Sanborn  asked  me  to  do  what  Conway  suggested  before 
he  left  for  Europe ;  viz.,  to  arrange  my  letters  in  a  print- 
able shape,  and  put  them  in  the  "Commonwealth." 
They  thought  them  witty  and  pathetic.  I  did  n't ;  but  I 
wanted  money ;  so  I  made  three  hospital  sketches.  Much 
to  my  surprise,  they  made  a  great  hit ;  and  people  bought 
the  papers  faster  than  they  could  be  supplied.  The  sec- 
ond, "A  Night"  was  much  liked,  and  I  was  glad;  for 
my  beautiful  "  John  Sulie  '  was  the  hero,  and  the  praise 
belonged  to  him.  More  were  wanted ;  and  I  added  a 

Hospital  Sketches.  151 

postscript  in  the  form  of  a  letter,  which  finished  it  up,  as 
I  then  thought. 

Received  $100  from  F.  L.  for  a  tale  which  won  the 
prize  last  January;  paid  debts,  and  was  glad  that  my 
winter  bore  visible  fruit.  Sent  L.  another  tale.  Went  to 
Boston,  and  saw  "  our  baby ; '  thought  him  ugly,  but 
promising.  Got  a  set  of  furniture  for  my  room,  —  a  long- 
talked-of  dream  of  ours. 

May.  —  Spent  the  first  week  or  two  in  putting  the 
house  in  order.  May  painted  and  papered  the  parlors. 
I  got  a  new  carpet  and  rug  besides  the  paper,  and  put 
things  to  rights  in  a  thorough  manner.  Mother  was  away 
with  Nan,  so  we  had  full  sweep ;  and  she  came  home  to 
a  clean,  fresh  house. 

Nan  and  the  Royal  Infanta  came  as  bright  as  a  whole 
gross  of  buttons,  and  as  good  as  a  hairless  brown  angel. 
Went  to  Readville,  and  saw  the  54th  Colored  Regi- 
ment, both  there  and  next  day  in  town  as  they  left  for 
the  South.  Enjoyed  it  very  much ;  also  the  Antislavery 

Had  a  fresh  feather  in  my  cap ;  for  Mrs.  Hawthorne 
showed  Fields  "Thoreau's  Flute,"  and  he  desired  it  for 
the  "  Atlantic."  Of  course  I  did  n't  say  no.  It  was 
printed,  copied,  praised,  and  glorified  ;  also  paid  for,  and 
being  a  mercenary  creature,  I  liked  the  $10  nearly  as 
well  as  the  honor  of  being  "  a  new  star  "  and  "  a  literary 

June.  —  Began  to  write  again  on  "Moods,"  feeling  en- 
couraged by  the  commendation  bestowed  on  "  Hospital 
Sketches,"  which  were  noticed,  talked  of,  and  inquired 
about,  much  to  my  surprise  and  delight.  Had  a  fine 
letter  from  Henry  James,  also  one  from  WTasson,  and  a 
request  from  Redpath  to  be  allowed  to  print  the  sketches 
in  a  book.  Roberts  Bros,  also  asked,  but  I  preferred  the 

152  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Redfath,  and  said  yes ;  so  he  fell  to  work  with  all  his 

Went  to  Class  Day  for  the  first  time ;  had  a  pleasant 
day  seeing  new  sights  and  old  friends. 

G.  H.  came  to  the  H.'s.  Did  n't  like  her  as  well  as 
Miss  H. ;  too  sharp  and  full  of  herself;  insisted  on  talk- 
ing about  religion  with  Emerson,  who  glided  away  from 
the  subject  so  sweetly,  yet  resolutely,  that  the  energetic 
lady  gave  it  up  at  last. 

[1877.  —  Short-sighted  Louisa  !  Little  did  you  dream  that 
this  same  Roberts  Bros,  were  to  help  you  to  make  your  fortune 
a  few  years  later.  The  "  Sketches  "  never  made  much  money, 
but  showed  me  "  my  style,"  and  taking  the  hint,  I  went  where 
glory  waited  me.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

July.  —  Sanborn  asked  for  more  contributions,  and  I 
gave  him  some  of  my  old  Mountain  Letters  vamped  up. 
They  were  not  good,  and  though  they  sold  the  paper,  I 
was  heartily  ashamed  of  them,  and  stopped  in  the  middle, 
resolving  never  again  to  try  to  be  funny,  lest  I  should  be 
rowdy  and  nothing  more.  I  'm  glad  of  the  lesson,  and 
hope  it  will  do  me  good. 

Had  some  pleasant  letters  from  Sergeant  Bain,  —  one 
of  my  boys  who  has  not  forgotten  me,  though  safely  at 
home  far  away  in  Michigan.  It  gratified  me  very  much, 
and  brought  back  the  hospital  days  again.  He  was  a 
merry,  brave  little  fellow,  and  I  liked  him  very  much. 
His  right  arm  was  amputated  after  Fredericksburg,  and 
he  took  it  very  cheerfully,  trying  at  once  to  train  his  left 
hand  to  do  duty  for  both,  and  never  complained  of  his 
loss.  «  Baby  B." 

August.  —  Redpath  carried  on  the  publishing  of  the 
"  Sketches  "  vigorously,  sending  letters,  proof,  and  notices 
daily,  and  making  all  manner  of  offers,  suggestions,  and 

Hospital  Sketches.  153 

prophecies  concerning  the  success  of  the  book  and  its 

Wrote  a  story,  "  My  Contraband,"  and  sent  it  to  Fields, 
who  accepted  and  paid  $50  for  it,  with  much  approbation 
for  it  and  the  "  Sketches."  L.  sent  $40  for  a  story,  and 
wanted  another. 

Major  M.  invited  me  to  Gloucester ;  but  I  refused,  be- 
ing too  busy  and  too  bashful  to  be  made  a  lion  of,  even 
in  a  very  small  way.  Letters  from  Dr.  Hyde,  Wilkie 
(home  with  a  wound  from  Wagner),  Charles  Sumner, 
Mr.  Hale,  and  others,  —  all  about  the  little  "Sketches," 
which  keep  on  making  friends  for  me,  though  I  don't 
get  used  to  the  thing  at  all,  and  think  it  must  be  all 
a  mistake. 

On  the  25th  my  first  morning-glory  bloomed  in  my 
room,  —  a  hopeful  blue,  —  and  at  night  up  came  my 
book  in  its  new  dress.  I  had  added  several  chapters  to 
it,  and  it  was  quite  a  neat  little  affair.  An  edition  of 
one  thousand,  and  I  to  have  five  cents  on  each  copy. 

September.  —  Redpath  anxious  for  another  book.  Send 
him  a  volume  of  stories  and  part  of  a  book  to  look  at. 
He  likes  both ;  but  I  decide  on  waiting  a  little,  as  I  'm 
not  satisfied  with  the  stories,  and  the  novel  needs  time. 
"  Sketches  "  sell  well,  and  a  new  edition  is  called  for. 

Dear  old  Grandma  died  at  Aunt  Betsey's  in  her  eighty- 
ninth  year,  —  a  good  woman,  and  much  beloved  by  her 
children.  I  sent  money  to  help  lay  her  away ;  for  Aunt 
B.  is  poor,  and  it  was  all  I  could  do  for  the  kind  little  old 

Nan  and  Freddy  made  us  a  visit,  and  we  decided  that 
of  all  splendid  babies  he  was  the  king.  Such  a  hearty, 
happy,  funny  boy,  I  could  only  play  with  and  adore  him 
all  the  while  he  stayed,  and  long  for  him  when  he  went. 
Nan  and  John  are  very  fond  of  "  our  son,"  and  well  they 

154  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

may  be.  Grandma  and  Grandpa  think  him  perfect,  and 
even  artistic  Aunty  May  condescends  to  say  he  is  "  a 
very  nice  thing." 

"  My  Contraband ;  or,  The  Brothers,"  my  story  in  the 
"  Atlantic,"  came  out,  and  was  liked.  Received  $40 
from  Redpath  for  "Sketches,"  —  first  edition;  wanted 
me  to  be  editor  of  a  paper ;  was  afraid  to  try,  and  let 
it  go. 

Poor  old  "  Moods  '  came  out  for  another  touching 

October.  —  Thought  much  about  going  to  Port  Royal 
to  teach  contrabands.  Fields  wanted  the  letters  I  should 
write,  and  asked  if  I  had  no  book.  Father  spoke  of 
"  Moods,"  and  he  desired  to  see  it.  So  I  fell  to  work, 
and  finished  it  off,  thinking  the  world  must  be  coming 
to  an  end,  and  all  my  dreams  getting  fulfilled  in  a  most 
amazing  way.  If  there  was  ever  an  astonished  young 
woman,  it  is  myself;  for  things  have  gone  on  so  swim- 
mingly of  late  I  don't  know  who  I  am.  A  year  ago  I 
had  no  publisher,  and  went  begging  with  my  wares ;  now 
three  have  asked  me  for  something,  several  papers  are 
ready  to  print  my  contributions,  and  F.  B.  S.  says  "  any 
publisher  this  side  of  Baltimore  would  be  glad  to  get  a 
book."  There  is  a  sudden  hoist  for  a  meek  and  lowly 
scribbler,  who  was  told  to  "  stick  to  her  teaching,"  and 
never  had  a  literary  friend  to  lend  a  helping  hand  !  Fif- 
teen years  of  hard  grubbing  may  be  coming  to  something 
after  all ;  and  I  may  yet  "  pay  all  the  debts,  fix  the 
house,  send  May  to  Italy,  and  keep  the  old  folks  cosey," 
as  I  Ve  said  I  would  so  long,  yet  so  hopelessly. 

May  began  to  take  anatomical  drawing  lessons  of  Rim- 
mer.  I  was  very  glad  to  be  able  to  pay  her  expenses  up 
and  down  and  clothe  her  neatly.  Twenty  dollars  more 
from  Redpath  on  account. 

Hospital  Sketches.  155 

December. — Earnings  1863,  $380. 

The  principal  event  of  this  otherwise  quiet  month  was 
the  Sanitary  Fair  in  Boston,  and  our  part  in  it.  At  G.  G. 
B.'s  request,  I  dramatized  six  scenes  from  Dickens,  and 
went  to  town  on  the  i4th  to  play.  Things  did  not  go 
well  for  want  of  a  good  manager  and  more  time.  Our 
night  was  not  at  all  satisfactory  to  us,  owing  to  the  falling 
through  of  several  scenes  for  want  of  actors.  People 
seemed  to  like  what  there  was  of  it,  and  after  a  weari- 
some week  I  very  gladly  came  home  again.  Our  six 
entertainments  made  twenty-five  hundred  dollars  for 
the  Fair. 

Rewrote  the  fairy  tales,  one  of  which  was  published  ; 
but  owing  to  delays  it  was  late  for  the  holidays,  and  badly 
bound  in  the  hurry;  so  the  poor  "Rose  Family"  fared 

Had  a  letter  from  the  publisher  of  a  new  magazine, 
called  the  "  Civil  Service  Magazine,"  asking  for  a  long 
tale.  Had  no  time  to  write  one ;  but  will  by  and  by,  if 
the  thing  is  good. 

While  in  town  received  $10  of  F.  B.  S.  and  $20  of 
Redpath,  with  which  I  bought  May  hat,  boots,  gloves, 
ribbons,  and  other  little  matters,  besides  furnishing  money 
for  her  fares  up  and  down  to  Rimmer. 

January,  1864.  —  New  Year's  Day  was  a  very  quiet 
one.  Nan  and  Freddy  were  here,  and  in  the  evening  we 
went  to  a  dance  at  the  hall.  A  merry  time ;  for  all  the 
town  was  there,  as  it  was  for  the  Soldiers'  Aid  Society, 

9  J    7 

and  every  one  wanted  to  help.  Nan  and  I  sat  in  the 
gallery,  and  watched  the  young  people  dance  the  old 
year  out,  the  new  year  in  as  the  clock  struck  twelve. 

On  looking  over  my  accounts,  I  find  I  have  earned  by 
my  writing  alone  nearly  six  hundred  dollars  since  last 
January,  and  spent  less  than  a  hundred  for  myself,  which 

156  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

I  am  glad  to  know.  May  has  had  $70  for  herself,  and 
the  rest  has  paid  debts  or  bought  necessary  things  for 
the  family. 

Received  from  the  "Commonwealth'  $18  for  "A 
Hospital  Christmas."  Wrote  a  fairy  tale,  "  Fairy  Pina- 
fores." "  Picket  Duty  "  and  other  tales  came  out,  —  first 
of  Redpath's  series  of  books  for  the  "  Camp  Fires." 
Richardson  sent  again  for  a  long  story  for  the  "  Civil 
Service  Magazine."  Tried  a  war  story,  but  could  n't 
make  it  go. 

February.  —  Nan  quite  sick  again.  Mother  passed 
most  of  the  month  with  her ;  so  I  had  to  be  housekeeper, 
and  let  my  writing  go,  —  as  well  perhaps,  as  my  wits  are 
tired,  and  the  "  divine  afflatus  "  don't  descend  as  readily 
as  it  used  to  do.  Must  wait  and  fill  up  my  idea- box  be- 
fore I  begin  again.  There  is  nothing  like  work  to  set 
fancy  a-going. 

Redpath  came  flying  up  on  the  4th  to  get  "  Moods," 
promising  to  have  it  out  by  May.  Gave  it  to  him  with 
many  fears,  and  he  departed  content.  The  next  day  re- 
ceived a  telegram  to  come  down  at  once  and  see  the 
printers.  Went,  and  was  told  the  story  was  too  long  for 
a  single  volume,  and  a  two-volume  novel  was  bad  to  be- 
gin with.  Would  I  cut  the  book  down  about  half  ?  No, 
I  would  n't,  having  already  shortened  it  all  it  would  bear. 
So  I  took  my  "  opus  "  and  posted  home  again,  promising 
to  try  and  finish  my  shorter  book  in  a  month. 

A  dull,  heavy  month,  grubbing  in  the  kitchen,  sewing, 
cleaning  house,  and  trying  to  like  my  duty. 

Mrs.  S.  takes  a  great  fancy  to  May ;  sends  her  flowers, 
offers  to  pay  for  her  to  go  to  the  new  Art  School,  and  ar- 
ranges everything  delightfully  for  her.  She  is  a  fortunate 
girl,  and  always  finds  some  one  to  help  her  as  she  wants 
to  be  helped.  Wish  I  could  do  the  same,  but  suppose  as 

Hospital  Sketches.  157 

I  never  do  that  it  is  best  for  me  to  work  and  wait  and  do 
all  for  myself. 

Mr.  Storrs,  D.D.,  wrote  for  a  sketch  for  his  little  paper, 
"The  Drum  Beat,"  to  be  printed  during  the  Brooklyn 
Sanitary  Fair.  A  very  cordial,  pleasant  letter,  which  I 
answered  by  a  little  sketch  called  "A  Hospital  Lamp." 
He  sent  me  another  friendly  letter,  and  all  the  daily 
papers  as  they  came  out.  A  very  gentlemanly  D.D.  is 
Dr.  Storrs. 

The  "  Hospital  Sketches  "  were  fully  entitled  to 
their  wide  and  rapid  popularity;  and  for  the  first 
time  perhaps  Miss  Alcott  felt  sure  of  her  vocation, 
and  knew  that  it  would  bring  at  last  the  success 
which  would  enable  her  to  carry  out  her  plans  for 
the  family.  And  yet  the  battle  was  not  over. 
She  gained  in  reputation,  was  received  with  great 
attention  in  society,  and  lionized  more  than  she 
cared  for.  But  she  still  continued  writing  stories 
for  the  various  papers  at  very  low  prices.  Some 
of  them  were  refused  by  the  publishers,  as  she 
thinks,  on  account  of  the  Antislavery  sentiments 
expressed  in  them.  Her  "  blood  and  thunder  ' 
stories  continued  in  demand,  and  she  wrote  them 
rapidly,  and  was  glad  of  the  money  they  brought. 
But  she  had  not  yet  found  her  true  path,  and 
she  suffered  at  times  from  keen  depression  of 
spirits ;  for  the  way  seemed  long  and  dark,  and 
she  did  not  see  the  end.  In  more  than  one 
sense  she  struggled  with  Moods ;  for  that  un- 
happy book  was  still  tossed  from  publisher  to 
publisher,  who  gave  her  much  praise,  but  no 

158  Louisa  May  Alcott. 


A  busy  month  getting  settled.  Freddy's  birthday  on 
the  28th,  one  year  old.  He  had  a  dozen  nice  little  pres- 
ents laid  out  in  a  row  when  he  came  down  to  breakfast, 
and  seemed  quite  overpowered  with  his  riches.  On  being 
told  to  take  what  he  liked  best,  he  chose  the  picture  of 
little  Samuel  which  Father  gave  him,  and  the  good  pope 
was  much  delighted  at  that. 

Was  asked  for  a  poem  for  the  great  album  at  the  St. 
Louis  Fair,  and  sent  "  Thoreau's  Flute '  as  my  best. 
Also  received  a  letter  from  the  Philadelphia  managers 
asking  contributions  for  the  paper  to  be  printed  at  their 

Wrote  nothing  this  month. 

April.  —  At  Father's  request  I  sent  "Moods"  to  T., 
and  got  a  very  friendly  note  from  him,  saying  they  had 
so  many  books  on  hand  that  they  could  do  nothing  about 
it  now.  So  I  put  it  back  on  the  shelf,  and  set  about  my 
other  work.  Don't  despair,  "  Moods,"  we  '11  try  again 
by  and  by  ! 

[Alas  !  we  did  try  again.  --L.  M.  A.] 

Wrote  the  first  part  of  a  story  for  Professor  C.  called 
"Love  and  Loyalty,"  —  flat,  patriotic,  and  done  to  order. 
Wrote  a  new  fairy  tale,  "  Nelly's  Hospital." 

May.  —  Had  a  letter  from  Mrs.  Gildersleeve,  asking 
for  my  photograph  and  a  sketch  of  my  life,  for  a  book 
called  "  Heroic  Women ':  which  she  was  getting  up. 
Respectfully  refused.  Also  a  letter  and  flattering  notice 
from  "Ruth  Hall,"  and  a  notice  from  a  Chicago  critic 
with  a  long  extract  from  "  Rose  Family."  My  tale 
"  Enigmas '  came  out,  and  was  much  liked  by  readers 
of  sensation  rubbish.  Having  got  my  $50,  I  was 

Hospital  Sketches.  159 

June.  —  To  town  with  Father  on  the  3d  to  a  Fra- 
ternity Festival  to  which  we  were  invited.  Had  a  fine 
time,  and  was  amazed  to  find  my  "  'umble  "  self  made  a 
lion  of,  set  up  among  the  great  ones,  stared  at,  waited 
upon,  complimented,  and  made  to  hold  a  "  layvee ' 
whether  I  would  or  no ;  for  Mr.  S.  kept  bringing  up 
people  to  be  introduced  till  I  was  tired  of  shaking  hands 
and  hearing  the  words  "  Hospital  Sketches  '  uttered  in 
every  tone  of  interest,  admiration,  and  respect.  Mr. 
Wasson,  Whipple,  Alger,  Clarke,  Calthrop,  and  Chad- 
wick  came  to  speak  to  me,  and  many  more  whose  names 
I  forget.  It  was  a  very  pleasant  surprise  and  a  new  ex- 
perience. I  liked  it,  but  think  a  small  dose  quite  as 
much  as  is  good  for  me ;  for  after  sitting  in  a  corner 
and  grubbing  a  la  Cinderella,  it  rather  turns  one's  head 
to  be  taken  out  and  be  treated  like  a  princess  all  of 
a  sudden. 

August. — Went  to  Gloucester  for  a  fortnight  with  May 
at  the  M.'s.  Found  a  family  of  six  pretty  daughters,  a 
pleasant  mother,  and  a  father  who  was  an  image  of  one 
of  the  Cheeryble  brothers.  Had  a  jolly  time  boating, 
driving,  charading,  dancing,  and  picnicking.  One  mild 
moonlight  night  a  party  of  us  camped  out  on  Norman's 
Woe,  and  had  a  splendid  time,  lying  on  the  rocks  sing- 
ing, talking,  sleeping,  and  rioting  up  and  down.  Had  a 
fine  time,  and  took  coffee  at  all  hours.  The  moon  rose 
and  set  beautifully,  and  the  sunrise  was  a  picture  I  never 
shall  forget. 

Wrote  another  fairy  tale,  "Jamie's  Wonder  Book," 
and  sent  the  "  Christmas  Stories "  to  W.  &  W.,  with 
some  lovely  illustrations  by  Miss  Greene.  They  liked 
the  book  very  much,  and  said  they  would  consult  about 
publishing  it,  though  their  hands  were  full. 

September.  —  Mrs.  D.  made  a  visit,  and  getting  hold 

160  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

of  my  old  book  of  stories  liked  them,  and  insisted  on 
taking  "  Moods  "  home  to  read.  As  she  had  had  expe- 
rience with  publishers,  was  a  good  business  woman,  and 
an  excellent  critic,  I  let  her  have  it,  hoping  she  might 
be  able  to  give  the  poor  old  book  the  lift  it  has  been 
waiting  for  all  these  years.  She  took  it,  read  it,  and 
admired  it  heartily,  saying  that  "  no  American  author 
had  showed  so  much  promise ;  that  the  plan  was  admi- 
rable ;  the  execution  unequal,  but  often  magnificent ; 
that  I  had  a  great  field  before  me,  and  my  book  must  be 
got  out." 

Mrs.  D.  sent  it  to  L.,  who  liked  it  exceedingly,  and 
asked  me  to  shorten  it  if  I  could,  else  it  would  be  too 
large  to  sell  well.  Was  much  disappointed,  said  I  'd 
never  touch  it  again,  and  tossed  it  into  the  spidery  little 
cupboard  where  it  had  so  often  returned  after  fruitless 

At  last,  in  the  excited  hours  of  a  wakeful  night, 
Miss  Alcott  thought  of  a  way  to  curtail  the  objec- 
tionable length  of  the  book,  and  she  spent  a  fortnight 
in  remodelling  it,  —  as  she  then  thought  improving 
it  greatly,  —  although  she  afterwards  returned  to 
her  original  version  as  decidedly  the  best.  The 
book  was  brought  out,  and  she  had  the  pleasure 
of  presenting  the  first  copy  to  her  mother  on  her 
sixty-fourth  birthday.  She  had  various  projects  in 
her  mind,  one  of  which  was  a  novel,  with  two  char- 
acters in  it  like  Jean  Paul  Richter  and  Goethe.  It 
is  needless  to  say  this  was  never  carried  out.  Miss 
Alcott  had  great  powers  of  observation,  and  a  keen 
insight  into  character  as  it  fell  within  her  own 
range  of  life,  but  she  had  not  the  creative  imagi- 

Hospital  Sketches.  161 

nation  which  could  paint  to  the  life  the  subtlest 
workings  of  thought  and  feeling  in  natures  foreign 
to  her  own  experience.  She  could  not  have  por- 
trayed such  men:  but  who  could? 


October.  —  Wrote  several  chapters  of  "Work,"  and 
was  getting  on  finely,  when,  as  I  lay  awake  one  night, 
a  way  to  shorten  and  arrange  "  Moods '  came  into  my 
head.  The  whole  plan  laid  itself  smoothly  out  before 
me,  and  I  slept  no  more  that  night,  but  worked  on  it  as 
busily  as  if  mind  and  body  had  nothing  to  do  with 
one  another.  Up  early,  and  began  to  write  it  all  over 
again.  The  fit  was  on  strong,  and  for  a  fortnight  I  hardly 
ate,  slept,  or  stirred,  but  wrote,  wrote,  like  a  thinking 
machine  in  full  operation.  When  it  was  all  rewritten 
without  copying,  I  found  it  much  improved,  though  I  'd 
taken  out  ten  chapters,  and  sacrificed  many  of  my  favo- 
rite things ;  but  being  resolved  to  make  it  simple,  strong, 
and  short,  I  let  everything  else  go,  and  hoped  the  book 
would  be  better  for  it. 

[It  was  n't.     1867.] 

Sent  it  to  L. ;  and  a  week  after,  as  I  sat  hammering 
away  at  the  parlor  carpet,  —  dusty,  dismal,  and  tired,  - 
a  letter  came  from  L.  praising  the  story  more  enthusias- 
tically than  ever,  thanking  me  for  the  improvements,  and 
proposing  to  bring  out  the  book  at  once.  Of  course 
we  all  had  a  rapture,  and  I  finished  my  work  "  double 
quick,"  regardless  of  weariness,  toothache,  or  blue 

Next  day  I  went  to  Boston  and  saw  L.  A  brisk,  busi- 
ness-like man  who  seemed  in  earnest  and  said  many 


1 62  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

complimentary  things  about  "  Hospital  Sketches  "  and 
its  author.  It  was  agreed  to  bring  out  the  book  immedi- 
ately, and  Mrs.  D.  offered  to  read  the  proof  with  me. 

Was  glad  to  have  the  old  thing  under  way  again,  but 
did  n't  quite  believe  it  would  ever  come  out  after  so 
many  delays  and  disappointments. 

Sewed  for  Nan  and  Mary,  heard  Anna  Dickinson  and 
liked  her.  Read  "  Emily  Chester '  and  thought  it  an 
unnatural  story,  yet  just  enough  like  "  Moods  "  in  a  few 
things  to  make  me  sorry  that  it  came  out  now. 

On  Mother's  sixty-fourth  birthday  I  gave  her  "  Moods  " 
with  this  inscription,  —  "  To  Mother,  my  earliest  patron, 
kindest  critic,  dearest  reader,  I  gratefully  and  affection- 
ately inscribe  my  first  romance." 

A  letter  from  T.  asking  me  to  write  for  the  new  maga- 
zine "Our  Young  Folks,"  and  saying  that  "An  Hour" 
was  in  the  hands  of  the  editors. 

November.  —  Proof  began  to  come,  and  the  chapters 
seemed  small,  stupid,  and  no  more  my  own  in  print.  I 
felt  very  much  afraid  that  I  'd  ventured  too  much  and 
should  be  sorry  for  it.  But  Emerson  says  "that  what 
is  true  for  your  own  private  heart  is  true  for  others."  So 
I  wrote  from  my  own  consciousness  and  observation  and 
hope  it  may  suit  some  one  and  at  least  do  no  harm. 

I  sent  "An  Hour"  to  the  "Commonwealth"  and  it 
was  considered  excellent.  Also  wrote  a  Christmas  Story, 
"  Mrs.  Todger's  Teapot."  T.  asked  to  see  the  other  fairy 
tales  and  designs  and  poems,  as  he  liked  "  Nelly's  Hos- 
pital "  so  much. 

On  my  thirty-second  birthday  received  Richter's  Life 
from  Nan  and  enjoyed  it  so  much  that  I  planned  a  story 
of  two  men  something  like  Jean  Paul  and  Goethe,  only 
more  every-day  people.  Don't  know  what  will  come  of 
it,  but  if  "  Moods  "  goes  well  "  Success  "  shall  follow. 

Hospital  Sketches.  163 

Sewed  for  Wheeler's  colored  company  and  sent  them 
comfort-bags,  towels,  books,  and  bed-sacks.  Mr.  W. 
sent  me  some  relics  from  Point  Look  Out  and  a  pleasant 

December.  —  Earnings,  1864,  -  -$476. 

On  Christmas  Eve  received  ten  copies  of  "Moods" 
and  a  friendly  note  from  L.  The  book  was  hastily  got 
out,  but  on  the  whole  suited  me,  and  as  the  inside  was 
considered  good  I  let  the  outside  go.  For  a  week  where- 
ever  I  went  I  saw,  heard,  and  talked  "  Moods ; '  found 
people  laughing  or  crying  over  it,  and  was  continually 
told  how  well  it  was  going,  how  much  it  was  liked,  how 
fine  a  thing  I  'd  done.  I  was  glad  but  not  proud,  I 
think,  for  it  has  always  seemed  as  if  "  Moods  "  grew  in 
spite  of  me,  and  that  I  had  little  to  do  with  it  except  to 
put  into  words  the  thoughts  that  would  not  let  me  rest 
until  I  had.  Don't  know  why. 

By  Saturday  the  first  edition  was  gone  and  the  second 
ready.  Several  booksellers  ordered  a  second  hundred, 
the  first  went  so  fast,  and  friends  could  not  get  it  but  had 
to  wait  till  more  were  ready. 

Spent  a  fortnight  in  town  at  Mary's,  shopping,  helping 
Nan,  and  having  plays.  Heard  Emerson  once.  Gave 
C.  "  Mrs.  Todger's  Teapot,"  which  was  much  liked. 
Sent  L.  the  rest  of  his  story  and  got  £50.  S.  paid  $35 
for  "An  Hour."  R.  promised  $100  for  "Love  and 
Loyalty,"  so  my  year  closes  with  a  novel  well-launched 
and  about  $300  to  pay  debts  and  make  the  family  happy 
and  comfortable  till  spring.  Thank  God  for  the  success 
of  the  old  year,  the  promise  of  the  new  ! 

The  sale  of  "  Moods  "  was  at  first  very  rapid ; 
for  "  Hospital  Sketches  "  had  created  an  interest  in 
the  author,  and  welcome  recognition  came  to  her 

164  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

from  many  sources.  She  received  a  handsome 
sum  from  the  copyright,  and  "  the  year  closed  with 
enough  to  make  her  feel  free  of  debt  and  the 
family  comfortable."  She  ends  the  year's  journal 

The  following  year  was  spent  mostly  in  Boston. 
Miss  Alcott  went  into  society  and  enjoyed  the 
friendly  attentions  of  men  and  women  of  ability. 
She  continued  to  write  stories  for  money,  but  now 
received  fifty,  seventy-five,  or  a  hundred  dollars  for 
them.  She  frequently  took  part  in  theatrical  per- 
formances for  charities.  She  was  always  brilliant 
and  successful  and  enjoyed  them  with  something 
of  her  early  zest. 

Her  long  story  of  "  Success,"  or  "Work,"  "as  she 
afterwards  named  it,  was  still  in  her  mind,  but  she 
did  not  finish  it  at  this  time. 


January,  1865.  — The  month  began  with  some  plays 
at  the  town  hall  to  raise  funds  for  the  Lyceum.  We  did 
very  well  and  some  Scenes  from  Dickens  were  excellent. 
Father  lectured  and  preached  a  good  deal,  being  asked 
like  a  regular  minister  and  paid  like  one.  He  enjoyed 
it  very  much  and  said  good  things  on  the  new  religion 
which  we  ought  to  and  shall  have.  May  had  orders 
from  Canada  and  England  for  her  pretty  pen-and-ink 
work  and  did  well  in  that  line. 

Notices  of  "  Moods "  came  from  all  directions,  and 
though  people  did  n't  understand  my  ideas  owing  to  my 
shortening  the  book  so  much,  the  notices  were  mostly 
favorable  and  gave  quite  as  much  praise  as  was  good  for 
me.  I  had  letters  from  Mrs.  Parker,  Chadwick,  Sanborn, 

Hospital  Sketches.  165 

E.  B.  Greene,  the    artist,  T.  W.  Higginson   and    some 
others.     All  friendly  and  flattering. 

Saw  more  notices  of  "  Moods '  and  received  more 
letters,  several  from  strangers  and  some  very  funny. 
People  seemed  to  think  the  book  finely  written,  very 
promising,  wise,  and  interesting ;  but  some  fear  it  is  n't 
moral,  because  it  speaks  freely  of  marriage. 

Wrote  a  little  on  poor  old  "  Work  "  but  being  tired  of 
novels,  I  soon  dropped  it  and  fell  back  on  rubbishy  tales, 
for  they  pay  best,  and  I  can't  afford  to  starve  on  praise, 
when  sensation  stories  are  written  in  half  the  time  and 
keep  the  family  cosey. 

Earned  $75  this  month. 

I  went  to  Boston  and  heard  Father  lecture  before  the 
Fraternity.  Met  Henry  James,  Sr.,  there,  and  he  asked  me 
to  come  and  dine,  also  called  upon  me  with  Mrs.  James. 
I  went,  and  was  treated  like  the  Queen  of  Sheba.  Henry 
Jr.  wrote  a  notice  of  "  Moods  "  for  the  "  North  Ameri- 
can," and  was  very  friendly.  Being  a  literary  youth  he 
gave  me  advice,  as  if  he  had  been  eighty  and  I  a  girl. 
My  curly  crop  made  me  look  young,  though  thirty-one. 

Acted  in  some  public  plays  for  the  N.  E.  Women's 
Hospital  and  had  a  pleasant  time. 

L.  asked  me  to  be  a  regular  contributor  to  his  new 
paper,  and  I  agreed  if  he  'd  pay  beforehand ;  he  said  he 
would,  and  bespoke  two  tales  at  once,  $50  each,  longer 
ones  as  often  as  I  could,  and  whatever  else  I  liked  to 
send.  So  here  's  another  source  of  income  and  Alcott 
brains  seem  in  demand,  whereat  I  sing  "  Hallyluyer " 
and  fill  up  my  inkstand. 

April.  —  Richmond  taken  on  the  2d.  Hurrah  !  Went 
to  Boston  and  enjoyed  the  grand  jollification.  Saw 
Booth  again  in  Hamlet  and  thought  him  finer  than  ever. 
Had  a  pleasant  walk  and  talk  with  Phillips. 

1 66  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

On  the  1 5th  in  the  midst  of  the  rejoicing  came  the 
sad  news  of  the  President's  assassination,  and  the  city  went 
into  mourning.  I  am  glad  to  have  seen  such  a  strange 
and  sudden  change  in  a  nation's  feelings.  Saw  the  great 
procession,  and  though  few  colored  men  were  in  it,  one 
was  walking  arm  in  arm  with  a  white  gentleman,  and  I 
exulted  thereat. 

Nan  went  to  housekeeping  in  a  pleasant  house  at 
Jamaica  Plain,  and  I  went  to  help  her  move.  It  was 
beautiful  to  see  how  Freddy  enjoyed  the  freedom,  after 
being  cooped  up  all  winter,  and  how  every  morning, 
whether  it  rained  or  shone,  he  looked  out  and  said,  with 
a  smile  of  perfect  satisfaction,  "  Oh,  pretty  day  !  "  —  for 
all  days  were  pretty  to  him,  dear  little  soul ! 

Had  a  fine  letter  from  Conway,  and  a  notice  in  the 
"Reader,"  —  an  English  paper.  He  advised  sending 
copies  to  several  of  the  best  London  papers.  English 
people  don't  understand  "  transcendental  literature,"  as 
they  call  "  Moods."  My  next  book  shall  have  no  ideas 
in  it,  only  facts,  and  the  people  shall  be  as  ordinary  as 
possible ;  then  critics  will  say  it 's  all  right.  I  seem  to 
have  been  playing  with  edge  tools  without  knowing  it. 
The  relations  between  Warwick,  Moor,  and  Sylvia  are 
pronounced  impossible  ;  yet  a  case  of  the  sort  exists,  and 
the  woman  came  and  asked  me  how  I  knew  it.  I  did 
not  know  or  guess,  but  perhaps  felt  it,  without  any  other 
guide,  and  unconsciously  put  the  thing  into  my  book,  for 
I  changed  the  ending  about  that  time.  It  was  meant  to 
show  a  life  affected  by  moods,  not  a  discussion  of  mar- 
riage, which  I  knew  little  about,  except  observing  that 
very  few  were  happy  ones. 

June. —  Busy  writing,  keeping  house,  and  sewing.  Com- 
pany often ;  and  strangers  begin  to  come,  demanding  to 
see  the  authoress,  who  does  not  like  it,  and  is  porcupiny. 

Hospital  Sketches.  167 

Admire  the  books,  but  let  the  woman  alone,  if  you 
please,  dear  public  ! 

On  the  24th  Anna's  second  boy  was  born,  at  half-past 
three  in  the  morning,  —  Lizzie's  birthday.  A  fine,  stout, 
little  lad,  who  took  to  life  kindly,  and  seemed  to  find  the 
world  all  right.  Freddy  could  not  understand  it  at  first, 
and  told  his  mother  that  "  the  babee  "  had  got  his  place. 
But  he  soon  loved  the  "tunning  sing,"  and  would  stand 
watching  it  with  a  grave  face,  till  some  funny  little  idea 
found  vent  in  still  funnier  words  or  caresses. 

Nan  was  very  happy  with  her  two  boys,  so  was  John, 
though  both  had  wished  for  a  daughter. 

fitly.  —  While  at  Nan's  Mrs.  B.  asked  me  if  I  would 
go  abroad  with  her  sister.  I  said  "  yes ; '  but  as  I 
spoke  neither  French  nor  German,  she  did  n't  think  I  'd 
do.  I  was  sorry ;  but  being  used  to  disappointment, 
went  to  work  for  Nan,  and  bided  my  time,  which  came 
very  soon. 

To  Anna. 

[Date  uncertain.] 

MY  LASS,  —  This  must  be  a  frivolous  and  dressy  letter, 
because  you  always  want  to  know  about  our  clothes,  and 
we  have  been  at  it  lately.  May's  bonnet  is  a  sight  for 
gods  and  men.  Black  and  white  outside,  with  a  great 
cockade  boiling  over  the  front  to  meet  a  red  ditto  surg- 
ing from  the  interior,  where  a  red  rainbow  darts  across 
the  brow,  and  a  surf  of  white  lace  foams  up  on  each  side. 
I  expect  to  hear  that  you  and  John  fell  flat  in  the  dust 
with  horror  on  beholding  it. 

My  bonnet  has  nearly  been  the  death  of  me ;  for, 
thinking  some  angel  might  make  it  possible  for  me  to  go 
to  the  mountains,  I  felt  a  wish  for  a  tidy  hat,  after  wear- 
ing an  old  one  till  it  fell  in  tatters  from  my  brow.  Mrs. 
P.  promised  a  bit  of  gray  silk,  and  I  built  on  that ;  but 

1 68  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

when  I  went  for  it  I  found  my  hat  was  founded  on  sand ; 
for  she  let  me  down  with  a  crash,  saying  she  wanted  the 
silk  herself,  and  kindly  offering  me  a  flannel  petticoat 
instead.  I  was  in  woe  for  a  spell,  having  one  dollar  in 
the  world,  and  scorning  debt  even  for  that  prop  of  life, 
a  "  bonnet."  Then  I  roused  myself,  flew  to  Dodge, 
demanded  her  cheapest  bonnet,  found  one  for  a  dollar, 
took  it,  and  went  home  wondering  if  the  sky  would  open 
and  drop  me  a  trimming.  I  am  simple  in  my  tastes,  but 
a  naked  straw  bonnet  is  a  little  too  severely  chaste  even 
for  me.  Sky  did  not  open ;  so  I  went  to  the  "  Widow 
Cruise's  oil  bottle"  —  my  ribbon  box  —  which,  by  the 
way,  is  the  eighth  wonder  of  the  world,  for  nothing  is 
ever  put  in,  yet  I  always  find  some  old  dud  when  all 
other  hopes  fail.  From  this  salvation  bin  I  extracted  the 
remains  of  the  old  white  ribbon  (used  up,  as  I  thought, 
two  years  ago),  and  the  bits  of  black  lace  that  have 
adorned  a  long  line  of  departed  hats.  Of  the  lace  I 
made  a  dish,  on  which  I  thriftily  served  up  bows  of  rib- 
bon, like  meat  on  toast.  Inside  put  the  lace  bow,  which 
adorns  my  form  anywhere  when  needed.  A  white  flower 
A.  H.  gave  me  sat  airily  on  the  brim,  —  fearfully  unbe- 
coming, but  pretty  in  itself,  and  in  keeping.  Strings  are 
yet  to  be  evolved  from  chaos.  I  feel  that  they  await  me 
somewhere  in  the  dim  future.  Green  ones/;v  tern,  hold 
this  wonder  of  the  age  upon  my  gifted  brow,  and  I  survey 
my  hat  with  respectful  awe.  I  trust  you  will  also,  and 
see  in  it  another  great  example  of  the  power  of  mind 
over  matter,  and  the  convenience  of  a  colossal  brain  in 
the  primeval  wrestle  with  the  unruly  atoms  which  have 
harassed  the  feminine  soul  ever  since  Eve  clapped  on  a 
modest  fig-leaf  and  did  up  her  hair  with  a  thorn  for  a 

I  feel  very  moral  to-day,  having  done  a  big  wash  alone, 

Hospital  Sketches.  169 

baked,  swept  the  house,  picked  the  hops,  got  dinner,  and 
written  a  chapter  in  "  Moods."  May  gets  exhausted 
with  work,  though  she  walks  six  miles  without  a  murmur. 

It  is  dreadfully  dull,  and  I  work  so  that  I  may  not 
"  brood."  Nothing  stirring  but  the  wind  ;  nothing  to  see 
but  dust ;  no  one  comes  but  rose-bugs ;  so  I  grub  and 
scold  at  the  "A."  because  it  takes  a  poor  fellow's  tales 
and  keeps  'em  years  without  paying  for  'em.  If  I  think 
of  my  woes  I  fall  into  a  vortex  of  debts,  dishpans,  and 
despondency  awful  to  see.  So  I  say,  "  every  path  has 
its  puddle,"  and  try  to  play  gayly  with  the  tadpoles  in 
my  puddle,  while  I  wait  for  the  Lord  to  give  me  a  lift,  or 
some  gallant  Raleigh  to  spread  his  velvet  cloak  and  fetch 
me  over  dry  shod. 

L.  W.  adds  to  my  woe  by  writing  of  the  splendors  of 
Gorham,  and  says,  "  When  tired,  run  right  up  here  and 
find  rest  among  these  everlasting  hills."  All  very  aggra- 
vating to  a  young  woman  with  one  dollar,  no  bonnet, 
half  a  gown,  and  a  discontented  mind.  It 's  a  mercy 
the  mountains  are  everlasting,  for  it  will  be  a  century 
before  /  get  there.  Oh.  me,  such  is  life  ! 

Now  I  Ve  done  my  Jeremiad,  and  I  will  go  on  twang- 
ing my  harp  in  the  "  willow  tree." 

You  ask  what  I  am  writing.  Well,  two  books  half 
done,  nine  stories  simmering,  and  stacks  of  fairy  stories 
moulding  on  the  shelf.  I  can  't  do  much,  as  I  have  no 
time  to  get  into  a  real  good  vortex.  It  unfits  me  for 
work,  worries  Ma  to  see  me  look  pale,  eat  nothing,  and 
ply  by  night.  These  extinguishers  keep  genius  from 
burning  as  I  could  wish,  and  I  give  up  ever  hoping  to 
do  anything  unless  luck  turns  for  your 





FOUR  little  chests  all  in  a  row, 

Dim  with  dust  and  worn  by  time, 
All  fashioned  and  filled  long  ago 

By  children  now  in  their  prime. 
Four  little  keys  hung  side  by  side, 

With  faded  ribbons,  brave  and  gay 
When  fastened  there  with  childish  pride 

Long  ago  on  a  rainy  day. 
Four  little  names,  one  on  each  lid, 

Carved  out  by  a  boyish  hand  ; 
And  underneath  there  lieth  hid 

Histories  of  the  happy  band 
Once  playing  here,  and  pausing  oft 

To  hear  the  sweet  refrain 
That  came  and  went  on  the  roof  aloft 

In  the  falling  summer  rain. 

•  •••••• 

Four  little  chests  all  in  a  row, 

Dim  with  dust  and  worn  by  time  : 
Four  women,  taught  by  weal  and  woe 

To  love  and  labor  in  their  prime ; 
Four  sisters  parted  for  an  hour,  — 

None  lost,  one  only  gone  before, 
Made  by  love's  immortal  power 

Nearest  and  dearest  evermore. 
Oh  !  when  these  hidden  stores  of  ours 

Lie  open  to  the  Father's  sight, 
May  they  be  rich  in  golden  hours,  — 

Deeds  that  show  fairer  for  the  light, 
Deeds  whose  brave  music  long  shall  ring 

Like  a  spirit-stirring  strain, 
Souls  that  shall  gladly  soar  and  sing 

In  the  long  sunshine,  after  rain. 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  171 

THE  years  which  followed  the  war  and  Miss 
Alcott's  experience  as  a  hospital  nurse  were 
rather  sad  and  anxious  from  many  causes.  Louisa 
felt  deeply  the  loss  of  one  sister  by  death  and  the 
separation  from  another  by  marriage.  The  success 
of  "  Hospital  Sketches  '  and  a  few  other  stories 
published  about  the  same  time  had  given  her  confi- 
dence in  her  powers  and  hopes  of  a  successful  future. 
But  for  nearly  five  years  she  accomplished  nothing 
which  met  with  equal  favor.  The  reception  of  the 
novel  "  Moods,"  in  which  she  thought  she  had  ex- 
pressed her  best  life,  was  not  cheering  to  her;  and 
she  had  become  wholly  dissatisfied  with  the  sensa- 
tional stories,  which  formed  the  most  ready  resource 
for  earning  money.  Her  health  was  seriously  in- 
jured by  the  fever  from  which  she  suffered  in  the 
hospital,  and  she  had  no  longer  the  physical  energy 
to  sustain  the  unceasing  activity  of  her  brain. 

Under  these  difficulties  she  naturally  desired  a 
change  of  circumstances ;  and  the  old  longing  for 
a  journey  to  Europe  —  which  she  had  felt  strongly 
in  her  youth,  and  which,  like  all  American::  of  cul- 
ture, she  felt  more  and  more  as  time  passed  on 
—  became  her  ruling  desire.  She  was  very  fond 
of  new  scenes  and  variety  of  people,  and  she 
often  expressed  a  wish  to  live  many  years  in 

The  circumstances  of  the  family  were  not  yet 
such  as  to  justify  Louisa,  in  her  own  eyes,  in 
taking  her  earnings  for  the  desired  trip.  But  in 
1865  an  opportunity  was  offered  her  to  go  to 
Europe  as  companion  to  an  invalid  lady.  From 
her  experience  in  nursing  —  for  which  she  had  a 

172  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

natural  gift  —  she  and  her  friends  thought  her 
suited  to  the  position,  and  advised  her  acceptance 
of  the  offer. 

Although  devotedly  kind,  unselfish,  and  gener- 
ous, Louisa  had  not  the  temperament  suited  to  the 
needs  of  a  nervous  invalid.  She  was  impetuous 
and  impatient,  and  her  own  life  was  too  strong 
within  her  and  too  earnest  in  its  cravings,  for  her 
to  restrain  her  moods  and  actions  within  the  narrow 
limits  of  a  companion's  service.  She  found  even 
what  she  recognized  as  fair  services  wearisome  and 
distasteful,  and  sometimes  chafed  severely  under 
what  seemed  unnecessary  demands  on  her  time, 
strength,  and  patience.  Looking  back  on  this  ex- 
perience in  later  years,  she  recognized  these  facts, 
and  wrote  in  1885  :  "  Now,  being  a  nervous  invalid 
myself,  I  understand  what  seemed  whims,  selfish- 
ness, and  folly  in  others." 

Louisa  finally  decided  to  leave  her  companions 
and  go  on  alone  to  Paris  and  England,  where  she 
would  find  many  of  her  own  and  her  father's  friends. 
At  Vevay  she  had  made  the  acquaintance  of  a 
young  Polish  lad,  whom  she  found  very  interesting, 
and  who  was  the  original  of  the  charming  Laurie  in 
"  Little  Women."  He  met  her  again  in  Paris,  and 
contributed  greatly  to  the  pleasure  of  her  stay  there. 
He  afterwards  came  to  America,  and  visited  her; 
but  finally  returned  to  his  own  country. 

The  journal  gives  a  sufficient  account  of  her  life 
while  on  this  journey.  I  have  no  letters  written 
at  this  time,  as  she  wished  all  her  family  letters 
destroyed.  Her  few  weeks  in  London  passed  very 
happily.  Her  wide  reading  in  English  history 

Etirope,  and  Little   Women.  173 

and  in  contemporary  fiction,  especially  the  works 
of  Dickens  and  Thackeray,  filled  London  with  in- 
teresting associations,  and  she  enjoyed  thoroughly 
her  free  rambles  through  the  old  city,  as  well  as 
the  interesting  people,  who  received  her  with  great 

That  Louisa  might  have  these  few  weeks  of 
entire  relaxation  and  enjoyment,  her  mother  had 
been  obliged  to  borrow  means  for  the  support 
of  the  family;  and  Louisa  was  very  anxious  to 
clear  off  this  debt  like  all  others.  She  was  very 
exact  in  pecuniary  matters.  Money  to  her  was 
not  an  end,  but  a  most  necessary  means.  She 
paid  every  debt  that  her  father  had  incurred, 
even  though  outlawed  by  time.  It  is  often  asked 
whether  she  ever  sold  her  beautiful  hair,  as  repre- 
sented in  "  Little  Women."  The  deed  was  never 
really  done  ;  but  she  and  her  sisters  always  held  this 
treasure  as  a  possible  resource  in  case  of  need  ;  and 
Louisa  once  says  in  her  journal,  "  I  will  pay  my 
debts,  if  I  have  to  sell  my  hair  to  do  it."  She  even 
went  so  far  as  to  inquire  of  a  barber  as  to  its  money 


1865.  —  Mr.  W.,  hearing  that  I  was  something  of  a 
nurse  and  wanted  to  travel,  proposed  my  going  with  his 
invalid  daughter.  I  agreed,  though  I  had  my  doubts. 
But  every  one  said  "  Go ; '  so  after  a  week  of  worry  I 
did  go.  On  the  1 9th we  sailed  in  the  "China."  I  could 
not  realize  that  my  long-desired  dream  was  coming  true ; 
and  fears  that  I  might  not  see  all  the  dear  home  faces 
when  I  came  back  made  my  heart  very  full  as  we  steamed 
down  the  harbor  and  Boston  vanished. 

1/4  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Was  not  very  sick,  but  uncomfortable  all  the  way,  and 
found  the  Ladies'  Saloon  my  only  refuge  till  we  were 
nearly  across ;  enjoyed  intervals  of  quiet,  and  had  many 
fine  glimpses  of  the  sea  in  its  various  moods,  sunsets  and 
sunrises,  fogs,  icebergs,  rain-storms,  and  summer  calms. 
No  very  pleasant  people  on  board  ;  so  I  read,  took  notes, 
and  wiled  away  the  long  days  as  I  best  could. 

We  had  a  very  quiet  and  quick  passage  of  nine  days, 
and  on  Saturday,  the  29th,  steamed  up  the  Mersey  at 
dawn,  and  got  to  Liverpool  at  nine.  I  was  heartily  glad 
to  set  my  feet  on  the  solid  earth,  and  thought  I  'd  never 
go  to  sea  again ;  rested,  and  looked  about  a  little. 

Aiigust.  —  Went  up  to  London,  and  there  spent  four 
dull,  drizzly  days.  I  amused  myself  in  my  usual  way, 
looking  well  about  me,  and  writing  down  all  I  saw  in  my 
pocket-diary  or  letters.  Went  to  the  parks,  Westminster 
Abbey,  and  some  of  the  famous  streets.  I  felt  as  if  I  'd 
got  'into  a  novel  while  going  about  in  the  places  I  'd  read 
so  much  of;  saw  no  one  I  knew,  and  thought  English 
weather  abominable. 

On  the  5th  to  Dover  through  a  lovely  green  country; 
took  steamer  there  to  Ostende ;  but  was  ill  all  the  way, 
and  saw  nothing  but  a  basin  ;  spent  two  days  at  a  queer 
hotel  near  the  fine  promenade,  which  was  a  very  foreign 
and  brilliant  scene.  To  Brussels  on  the  yth.  Here  I 
enjoyed  much,  for  the  quaint  old  city  was  full  of  inter- 
esting things.  The  ancient  square,  where  the  statues  of 
Egmont  and  Horn  stand,  was  my  delight ;  for  the  old 
Dutch  houses  were  still  standing,  and  everything  was  so 
new  and  strange  I  wanted  to  stay  a  month. 

To  Cologne  on  the  9th,  and  the  country  we  passed 
through  was  like  a  big  picture-book.  The  city  was  very 
hot,  dirty,  and  evil-smelling.  We  saw  the  Cathedral,  got 
eau  de  Cologne,  and  very  gladly  left  after  three  days. 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  175 

On  the  1 2th  began  a  lovely  voyage  up  the  Rhine.  It 
was  too  beautiful  to  describe,  so  I  shall  not  try  ;  but  I  feel 
richer  and  better  for  that  memorable  day.  We  reached 
Coblenz  at  sunset,  and  I  was  up  half  the  night  enjoying 
the  splendid  view  of  the  fortress  opposite  the  town,  the 
moonlit  river  with  its  bridges  of  boats,  and  troops  cross- 
ing at  midnight. 

A  second  day,  still  more  charming,  took  us  through 
the  famous  parts  of  the  Rhine,  and  filled  my  head  with 
pictures  that  will  last  all  my  life. 

Before  we  reached  Bieberich  we  stopped  at  a  queer 
little  Dutch  town,  and  had  a  queer  time  ;  for  no  one 
spoke  English,  and  we  only  a  little  bad  French.  Passed 
the  night  there,  and  next  day  reached  Schwalbach  after 
many  trials  and  tribulations. 

The  place  is  a  narrow  valley  shut  in  by  high  hills,  the 
town  being  divided  into  two  parts  :  the  lowest  is  the 
original  town  —  queer  ale-houses,  churches,  and  narrow 
streets ;  the  upper  part,  near  the  springs,  is  full  of  fine 
hotels,  pleasure-grounds,  and  bath-houses. 

We  took  lodgings  with  Madame  Genth,  wife  of  the 
Forestmeister  (forest  master),  —  two  rooms,  —  and  be- 
gan the  water  under  Dr.  Genth's  care. 

We  walked  a  little,  talked  a  little,  bathed  and  rode  a 
little,  worried  a  good  deal,  and  I  grubbed  away  at  French, 
with  no  master  and  small  success. 

September.  —  Still  at  Schwalbach,  A.  doing  her  best  to 
get  well,  and  I  doing  mine  to  help  her.  Rather  dull 
days,  —  bathing,  walking,  and  quiddling  about. 

A  letter  from  home  on  the  2Oth.  All  well  and  happy, 
thank  God.  It  touched  and  pleased  me  very  much  to 
see  how  they  missed  me,  thought  of  me,  and  longed  to 
have  me  back.  Every  little  thing  I  ever  did  for  them  is 
now  so  tenderly  and  gratefully  remembered  ;  and  my  ab- 

176  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

sence  seems  to  have  left  so  large  a  gap  that  I  begin  to 
realize  how  much  I  am  to  them  in  spite  of  all  my  faults. 
The  letters  made  me  very  happy,  and  everything  bright- 
ened immensely.  A.  got  stronger,  and  when  G.  came  on 
the  28th  was  able  to  start  off  next  day  on  the  way  to 
Yevay,  where  we  are  to  pass  some  weeks  before  we  are 
to  go  to  Nice. 

Went  to  Wiesbaden  first,  a  pleasant,  gay  place,  full  of 
people.  Saw  the  gambling  hall  and  people  playing,  the 
fine  grounds  and  drives,  and  then  went  on  to  Frankfort. 
Here  I  saw  and  enjoyed  a  good  deal.  The  statues  of 
Goethe,  Schiller,  Faust,  Gutenberg,  and  SchaefTer  are  in 
the  squares.  Goethe's  house  is  a  tall,  plain  building,  with 
each  story  projecting  over  the  lower,  and  a  Dutch  roof; 
a  marble  slab  over  the  front  door  recording  the  date  of 
Goethe's  birth.  I  took  a  look  at  it  and  wanted  to  go  in, 
as  it  was  empty,  but  there  was  no  time.  Some  Americans 
said,  "Who  was  Goethe,  to  fuss  about?  " 

Frankfort  is  a  pleasant  old  city  on  the  river,  and  I  'm 
glad  to  have  been  there. 

October.  —  On  to  Heidelberg,  a  charming  old  place 
surrounded  by  mountains.  We  went  to  the  Castle  and 
had  a  fine  time  roving  about  the  ruins,  looking  at  the 
view  from  the  great  terrace,  admiring  the  quaint  stone 
images  of  knights,  saints,  monsters,  and  angels,  and  vis- 
iting the  big  tun  in  the  cellar  by  torchlight. 

The  moon  rose  while  we  were  there  and  completed  the 
enchantment  of  the  scene. 

The  drive  home  was  like  looking  at  a  picture-book,  for 
the  street  was  narrow,  the  carriage  high,  and  we  looked 
in  at  the  windows,  seeing  pretty  scenes.  Here,  men  drink- 
ing beer  in  a  Dutch-looking  room  ;  there,  little  children 
going  to  bed ;  a  pair  of  lovers  with  a  pot  of  flowers  be- 
tween them ;  an  old  woman  brooding  over  the  fire  like  a 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  177 

witch ;  and  in  one  room  some  one  lay  dead  surrounded 
by  candles. 

From  H.  we  went'  to  Baden-Baden,  a  very  fashionable 
place.  The  old  chateau  was  my  delight,  and  we  passed 
a  morning  going  up  and  down  to  visit  it.  Next  to  Frei- 
burg, where  the  Cathedral  delighted  me  extremely,  being 
full  of  old  carved  images  and  grotesque  designs ;  the 
market-place  with  the  fountains,  statues,  water  running 
beside  the  streets,  and  queer  costumes. 

Basle  came  next,  and  a  firemen's  fete  made  the  city 
very  gay.  The  hotel  was  on  the  river,  and  moonlight 
made  a  Venetian  scene  for  me  with  the  lighted  bridge, 
covered  with  gondola-like  boats  and  music  from  both 
shores.  I  walk  while  A.  rests,  and  enjoy  sights  from  my 
window  when  she  is  asleep,  as  I  cannot  leave  her  at 

On  our  way  to  Berne  I  caught  my  first  glimpse  of  the 
Alps,  October  8th,  mother's  birthday.  Tall,  white,  spec- 
tral-looking shapes  they  were,  towering  above  the  green 
hills  and  valleys  that  lay  between.  Clouds  half  hid  them, 
and  the  sun  glittered  on  the  everlasting  snow  that  lay 
upon  their  tops.  Sharp,  strange  outlines  against  the  sky 
they  became  as  night  came  on,  and  in  the  morning  I  had 
a  fine  view  of  the  Jungfrau,  the  Bliimlis,  the  Wetterhorn, 
and  Monch  from  the  terrace  at  Berne. 

B.  was  a  queer  old  city,  but  I  saw  little  of  it  except  the 
bears  and  shops.  No  time. 

Freiburg  No.  2  was  the  most  romantic  place  we  have 
been  in.  The  town  is  built  in  a  wide  crevice  or  valley 
between  two  steep  hills,  so  that  suspension  bridges  are 
hung  from  height  to  height  over  a  winding  river  and  the 
streets  of  the  town.  Watch-towers  stand  all  about  on  the 
hills,  and  give  a  very  romantic  air  to  the  place.  The  hotel 
overhung  the  valley,  and  from  our  rooms  we  went  out 


Louisa  May  Alcott. 

along  a  balcony  to  a  wide,  paved  platform  with  a  fountain 
in  the  middle,  an  aviary,  and  flowers  all  about.  The  view 
down  the  valley  was  charming,  —  the  airy  bridges,  green 
or  rocky  slopes,  busy  squares  below,  cows  and  goats  feed- 
ing on  the  hills,  the  towers,  the  old  church,  and  a  lovely 
blue  sky  overhead-  I  longed  to  sketch  it. 

At  Lausanne  we  stopped  at  the  Hotel  Gibbon  and  saw 
the  garden  where  the  great  historian  wrote  his  history. 
The  view  of  the  lake  was  lovely,  with  rocky  mountains 
opposite,  little  towns  at  their  feet,  vineyards  along  the 
hillsides,  and  pretty  boats  on  the  lake,  the  water  of  which 
was  the  loveliest  blue. 

To  Vevay  at  last,  —  a  pleasant  hour's  sail  to  a  very 
pleasant  place.  We  took  rooms  at  the  Pension  Victoria. 

Our  landlady  was  an  English  woman  who  had  married  a 
French  courier.  Very  kind  sort  of  people  :  rooms  com- 
fortable, meals  good,  and  surroundings  agreeable.  Our 
fellow-boarders  varied  from  time  to  time,  —  an  English 
doctor  and  wife,  a  fine  old  lady  with  them  who  looked 
like  Marie  Antoinette  ;  two  Scotch  ladies  named  Glennie, 
very  pleasant,  well-bred  ladies  who  told  me  about  Beattie 
who  was  their  grandfather,  and  Walter  Scott  whom  they 

knew ;  Colonel  and  family,  rebels,  and  very  bitter 

and  rude  to  us.     Had  queer  times  with  them. 

I  did  not  enjoy  the  life  nor  the  society  after  the  first 
novelty  wore  off,  for  I  missed  my  freedom  and  grew  very 
tired  of  the  daily  worry  which  I  had  to  go  through  with. 

November. —  (Laurie)  Took  some  French  lessons  with 
Mademoiselle  Germain  and  learned  a  little,  but  found  it 
much  harder  than  I  thought,  and  often  got  discouraged, 
I  was  so  stupid.  A.  got  much  better,  and  some  new 
people  came.  The  doctor  and  his  set  left,  and  in  their 
place  came  a  Russian  family,  an  Irish  lady  and  daughter, 
and  a  young  Pole  with  whom  we  struck  up  a  friendship. 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  179 

Ladislas  Wisinewski  (Laurie)  was  very  gay  and  agreeable, 
and  being  ill  and  much  younger  we  petted  him.  He 
played  beautifully,  and  was  very  anxious  to  learn  English, 
so  we  taught  him  that  and  he  taught  us  French. 

On  my  birthday  A.  gave  me  a  pretty  painting  of  Chillon. 
Ladislas  promised  me  the  notes  of  the  Polish  National 
Hymn,  and  played  me  his  sweetest  airs  as  a  present  after 
wishing  me  "  All  good  and  happiness  on  earth,  and  a  high 
place  in  Heaven  as  my  reward."  It  was  a  mild,  windy 
day,  very  like  me  in  its  fitful  changes  of  sunshine  and 
shade.  Usually  I  am  sad  on  my  birthday,  but  not  this 
time  ;  for  though  nothing  very  pleasant  happened,  I  was 
happy  and  hopeful  and  enjoyed  everything  with  unusual 
relish.  I  feel  rather  old  with  my  thirty-three  years,  but 
have  much  to  keep  me  young,  and  hope  I  shall  not  grow 
older  in  heart  as  the  time  goes  on.  I  thought  much  of 
dear  father  on  this  his  sixty-sixth  birthday,  and  missed 
the  little  ceremony  that  always  takes  place  on  these  occa- 
sions. Hope  I  shall  be  safely  at  home  before  another 
November  comes. 

December.  —  Laurie  very  interesting  and  good.  Pleas- 
ant walks  and  talks  with  him  in  the  chateau  garden  and 
about  Vevay.  A  lovely  sail  on  the  lake,  and  much  fun 
giving  English  and  receiving  French  lessons.  Every  one 
very  kind,  and  the  house  quite  home-like.  Much  inde- 
cision about  going  to  Nice  owing  to  the  cholera.  At  last 
we  decided  to  go,  and  started  on  the  6th  to  meet  G.  at 
Geneva.  L.  went  with  us  to  Lausanne,  kissed  our  hands 
at  parting,  and  went  back  to  V.  disconsolate.  Sad  times 
for  all,  but  we  journeyed  away  to  Nice  and  tried  to  forget 
our  troubles.  A  flat  uninteresting  country  till  we  ap- 
proached the  sea. 

Nice  very  pleasant,  climate  lovely,  and  sea  beautiful. 
We  lived  in  our  own  rooms,  and  saw  no  one  but  the 

i8o  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

doctor  and  Consul  and  a  few  American  callers.  A 
pleasant  drive  every  day  on  the  Promenade,  —  a  wide 
curving  wall  along  the  bay  with  hotels  and  Pensions  on 
one  side  and  a  flowery  walk  on  the  other.  Gay  car- 
riages and  people  always  to  be  seen ;  shops  full  of  fine 
and  curious  things ;  picturesque  castles,  towers,  and  walls 
on  one  hill ;  a  lighthouse  on  each  point  of  the  moon- 
shaped  bay;  boats  and  our  fleet  on  the  water;  gar- 
dens, olive  and  orange-trees,  queer  cacti,  and  palms 
all  about  on  the  land ;  monks,  priests,  soldiers,  peas- 
ants, etc. 

A  dull  Christmas  within  doors,  though  a  lovely  day 
without.  Windows  open,  roses  blooming,  air  mild,  and 
city  gay.  With  friends,  health,  and  a  little  money  how 
jolly  one  might  be  in  this  perpetual  summer. 

January,  1866.  —  Nice.  Rained  all  New  Year's  day, 
and  I  spent  it  sewing,  writing,  and  reading  an  American 
newspaper  which  came  in  the  morning,  my  only  present. 
I  hoped  for  letters  but  got  none,  and  was  much  disap- 
pointed. A.  was  ill,  so  I  had  to  receive  in  American  style. 
Mr.  Perkins,  Cooper,  and  the  Consul  called.  At  dinner 
we  drank  the  healths  of  all  at  home,  and  also  Laddie's,  in 
our  bottle  of  champagne. 

A  quiet,  dull  time  generally,  driving  sometimes,  walking 
little,  and  writing  letters.  Now  and  then  I  got  a  pleasant 
walk  by  myself  away  among  the  vineyards  and  olive-trees 
or  down  into  the  queer  old  city.  I  soon  tired  of  the 
fashionable  Promenade,  for  every  one  was  on  exhibition. 
Sometimes  before  or  after  the  fashionable  hour  I  walked 
there  and  enjoyed  the  sea  and  sky. 

A  ball  was  given  at  our  Pension  and  we  went.  A 
queer  set,  —  Russians,  Spaniards,  French,  English, 
Americans,  Italians,  Jews,  and  Sandwich  Islanders.  They 
danced  wildly,  dressed  gayly,  and  sounded  as  if  the 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  181 

"confusion  of  tongues"  was  come  again.  A  few  pleas- 
ant Americans  called  on  us,  but  we  were  very  lonely  and 

Decided  to  take  an  apartment  No.  10  Rue  Geoffredo, 
paying  six  hundred  francs  for  ten  weeks,  six  rooms,  all 
large  and  handsome.  Dr.  P.  got  us  a  good  maid,  and 
on  the  i  yth  we  went  to  our  new  quarters.  Madame 
Rolande  was  French  governess  for  six  years  to  Victoria's 
children,  and  was  a  funny  old  party. 

Could  n't  sleep  at  all  for  some  nights,  and  felt  very 
poorly,  for  my  life  did  n't  suit  me  and  the  air  was  too 

Febmary.  —  Got  on  excellently  with  our  housekeeping, 
for  Julie  proved  a  treasure  and  we  were  very  comfortable. 
Had  many  lovely  drives,  and  saw  something  of  Nice  and 
its  beauties.  To  Cimies,  an  old  Franciscan  monastery 
near  the  ruins  of  a  Roman  amphitheatre.  The  convent 
stands  where  a  temple  of  Diana  once  stood,  and  is  sur- 
rounded by  ancient  ilex  trees.  A  monk  in  his  cowl, 
brown  robe,  sandals,  and  rope  girdle  did  the  honors  of 
the  church,  which  was  dark  and  full  of  bad  pictures.  San 
Andre  with  its  chateau  and  grotto,  Villa  Franca  in  a 
lovely  little  bay,  the  wood  of  Var  where  the  daisies  grew, 
Valrosa,  a  villa  in  a  rose  garden,  and  the  Porte  were  all 
interesting.  Also  Castle  Hill,  which  overlooks  the  town. 

I  decided  to  go  home  in  May,  though  A.  wants  me  to 
stay.  I  'm  tired  of  it,  and  as  she  is  not  going  to  travel, 
my  time  is  too  valuable  to  be  wasted. 

The  carnival  occurred.  Funny,  but  not  so  fine  a  sight 
as  I  expected.  Also  went  to  the  theatre  to  see  "  Lady 
Tartuffe."  Had  a  pleasant  time,  though  I  could  n't  un- 
derstand much.  The  acting  was  so  natural  and  good 
that  I  caught  the  plot,  and  with  a  little  telling  from 
Hosmer  knew  what  was  going  on. 

1 82  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Wrote  a  little  on  three  stories  which  would  come  into 
my  head  and  worry  me  till  I  gave  them  a  "vent." 

Good  letters  from  home.  All  well  and  busy,  and  long- 
ing for  me  in  the  spring. 

March.  —  A  tedious  month,  which  might  have  been 
quite  the  reverse  had  I  been  free  to  enjoy  it  in  my  own 
way.  Read  French,  walked  to  my  favorite  places,  and 
wrote  letters  when  I  found  time. 

Went  often  to  Valrosa,  a  lovely  villa  buried  in  roses. 
Got  a  wheeled  chair  and  a  man  to  draw  it,  then  with 
books,  lunch,  and  work,  I  tempted  A.  out  into  the  woods, 
and  we  had  some  pleasant  hours. 

April.  —  Went  to  the  Cathedral  to  see  the  Easter  cere- 
monies. Fine  music,  the  Gloria  was  sung,  a  Franciscan 
monk  preached,  the  Bishop  blessed  every  one,  and  was 
fussed  over  like  a  great  doll.  A  very  splendid  scene. 

Saw  Ristori  twice,  once  in  " Medea  "  and  once  in  "Eliza- 
beth." Never  saw  such  acting  ;  especially  in  Queen  Bess, 
it  was  splendid,  as  she  changes  from  the  young,  violent, 
coquettish  woman  to  the  peevish  old  crone  dying  with  her 
crown  on,  vain,  ambitious,  and  remorseful. 

May.  —  On  the  first  day  of  the  month  left  A.  and  Nice 
and  started  alone  for  Paris,  feeling  as  happy  as  a  freed 

A  pleasant  journey,  Laddie  waiting  for  me  in  Paris  to 
take  me  to  my  room  at  Madame  Dyne's.  A  very  charm- 
ing fortnight  here  ;  the  days  spent  in  seeing  sights  with 
my  Laddie,  the  evenings  in  reading,  writing,  hearing  "  my 
boy"  play,  or  resting.  Saw  all  that  I  wished  to  see  in  a 
very  pleasant  way,  and  on  the  i  yth  reluctantly  went  to 

Passed  a  fortnight  at  a  lovely  old  place  on  Wimbledon 
Common  with  the  Conways,  going  to  town  with  them  to 
see  the  lions,  Royal  Exhibition,  Hampton  Court,  Kensing- 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  183 

ton  and  British  Museums,  Crystal  Palace,  and  many  other 
pleasant  places.  But  none  were  lovelier  to  me  than  the 
old  farm-house  with  the  thatched  roof,  the  common  of 
yellow  gorse,  larks  going  up  in  the  morning,  nightingales 
flying  at  night,  hawthorne  everywhere,  and  Richmond 
Park  full  of  deer  close  by.  Also  Robin  Hood's  barn. 

/line.  —  Passed  the  first  ten  days  of  the  month  at 
Aubrey  House  with  the  Peter  Taylors.  A  lovely  English 
home  with  kind,  pure,  and  friendly  people.  Saw  many 
interesting  persons,  —  Miss  Cobbe,  Jean  Ingelow,  Dr. 
Garrett,  Madame  Bodichon,  Matilde  Blinde,  Mill,  Bright, 
Gladstone,  Hughes,  and  the  rest  at  the  House  of  Com- 
mons where  Mr.  T.  took  me. 

Went  to  a  dinner-party  or  two,  theatres,  to  hear  Dick- 
ens read,  a  concert,  conversazione  and  receptions,  seeing 
English  society,  or  rather  one  class  of  it,  and  liking  what 
I  saw. 

On  the  nth  went  to  board  with  Mrs.  Travers  in  West- 
bourne  Grove  Terrace.  A  pleasant  little  room,  plain 
living,  and  for  society  Mrs.  T.  and  daughter,  two  sisters 
from  Dublin,  and  ten  young  men,  —  barristers,  clerks, 
ministers,  and  students.  A  guinea  a  week. 

Very  free  and  jolly,  roaming  about  London  all  day, 
dining  late  and  resting,  chatting,  music,  or  fun  in  the 

Saw  the  Tower,  Windsor,  Parks,  Gardens,  and  all  man- 
ner of  haunts  of  famous  men  and  women,  —  Milton's  house, 
Johnson's  in  Ball  Court,  Lamb's,  Sairy  Gamp's,  Saracen's 
Head,  the  Charter  House  where  Thackeray  was  when  a 
lad,  Furnival's  Inn  where  Dickens  wrote  Pickwick,  Bacon's 
Walk,  and  endless  memorable  sights.  St.  Paul's  I  liked 
better  than  Notre  Dame. 

July.  —  At  Mrs.  Travers's  till  the  yth.     Saw  Routledge 
about  "Moods."     He  took  it,  would  like  another  book, 

184  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

and  was  very  iriendly.  Said  good-by  all  round,  and  at 
six  A.  M.  on  the  yth  left  for  Liverpool  with  Mr.  W.,  who 
saw  to  my  luggage  and  went  part  way.  Reached  the 
"Africa"  safely. 

A  trip  of  fourteen  stormy,  dull,  long,  sick  days,  but  at 
last  at  eleven  at  night  we  sailed  up  the  harbor  in  the 
moonlight,  and  I  saw  dear  John  waiting  for  me  on  the 
wharf.  Slept  on  board,  and  next  day  reached  home  at 
noon  to  find  Father  at  the  station,  Nan  and  babies  at  the 
gate,  May  flying  wildly  round  the  lawn,  and  Marmee  cry- 
ing at  the  door.  Into  her  arms  I  went,  and  was  at  home 
at  last. 

Happy  days,  talking  and  enjoying  one  another.  Many 
people  came  to  see  me,  and  all  said  I  was  much  improved  ; 
of  which  I  was  glad,  as  there  was,  is,  and  always  will  be 
room  for  it. 

Found  Mother  looking  old,  sick,  and  tired ;  Father  as 
placid  as  ever  ;  Nan  poorly,  but  blest  in  her  babies  ;  May 
full  of  plans,  as  usual :  Freddy  very  stout  and  loving ;  and 
my  Jack  the  dearest,  prettiest,  merriest  baby  boy  that  ever 
kissed  and  loved  everybody. 

August.  —  Soon  fell  to  work  on  some  stories,  for  things 
were,  as  I  expected,  behindhand  when  the  money-maker 
was  away.  Found  plenty  to  do,  as  orders  from  E.,  L., 
"  Independent,"  "  U.  S.  C.  S.  Magazine,"  and  several 
other  offers  waited  for  me.  Wrote  two  long  tales  for  L. 
and  got  $200  for  them.  One  for  E.  for  which  he  paid 
$75,  also  a  bit  of  poetry  for  $5.  He  wanted  a  long 
story  in  twenty-four  chapters,  and  I  wrote  it  in  a  fort- 
night, —  one  hundred  and  eighty-five  pages,  —  besides 
work,  sewing,  nursing,  and  company. 

Sent  S.  E.  S.  the  first  $100  on  my  account ;  could  have 
sent  $300,  but  it  was  needed,  so  I  gave  it  up  unwillingly, 
and  must  work  away  for  the  rest.  Mother  borrowed  the 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  185 

money  that  I  might  stay  longer  and  see  England,  as  I  had 
missed  much  while  condemned  to  "  hard  work  and  soli- 
tary confinement  for  nine  months,"  as  she  expressed  it. 

September.  —  Mother  sick,  did  little  with  my  pen.  Got 
a  girl,  and  devoted  myself  to  Mother,  writing  after  she  was 
abed.  In  this  way  finished  a  long  tale.  But  E.  would 
not  have  it,  saying  it  was  too  long  and  too  sensational  ! 

November.  —  Mother  slowly  mending.  A  sensible  West- 
ern woman  "  rubbed  "  her,  and  did  her  a  great  deal  of 
good.  She  left  her  room  and  seemed  more  like  herself. 
I  never  expect  to  see  the  strong,  energetic  Marmee  of  old 
times,  but,  thank  the  Lord  !  she  is  still  here,  though  pale 
and  weak,  quiet  and  sad ;  all  her  fine  hair  gone,  and 
face  full  of  wrinkles,  bowed  back,  and  every  sign  of  age. 
Life  has  been  so  hard  for  her,  and  she  so  brave,  so  glad 
to  spend  herself  for  others.  Now  we  must  live  for  her. 

On  Miss  Alcott's  return  from  Europe  in  July, 
1866,  she  devoted  herself  as  earnestly  as  ever  to  the 
personal  care  of  her  mother  and  to  story-writing 
for  the  support  of  the  family.  She  agreed  to 
write  a  fifty-dollar  tale  once  a  month,  and  besides 
this  wrote  many  short  stories  for  other  publishers. 
Her  father's  return  from  the  West  with  two  hun- 
dred dollars,  earned  on  his  western  trip,  gave  her 
some  relief;  and  she  was  cheered  by  hearing  that 
"  Moods  '  was  selling  well  in  Europe.  But  she 
was  not  well,  and  she  felt  anxious  and  troubled 
about  many  things.  Her  journal  of  these  months 
is  very  meagre;  and  January,  1867,  opens  with  the 
statement  that  she  is  "  sick  from  too  hard  work." 
Yet  the  account  of  stories  furnished  to  publishers 
continues  till  August,  when  she  went  to  Clark's 
Island  for  a  few  weeks  of  recreation.  Here  her 

1 86  Louisa  May  Alcctt. 

spirits  returned,  and  she  spent,  as  she  says,  "  a 
harem-scarem  fortnight,"  which  must  have  given  her 
great  refreshment.  She  says:  "  Got  to  work  again 
after  my  long  vacation,  for  bills  accumulate  and 
worry  me.  I  dread  debt  more  than  anything." 

In  the  journal  occurs  this  slight  notice  of  the 
first  step  in  one  of  the  most  important  achieve- 
ments of  her  life,  of  which  I  shall  speak  more  fully 
hereafter:  — 


September,  1867.  —  Niles,  partner  of  Roberts,  asked 
me  to  write  a  girls'  book.  Said  I  'd  try. 

F.  asked  me  to  be  the  editor  of  "  Merry's  Museum." 
Said  I  'd  try. 

Began  at  once  on  both  new  jobs ;  but  did  n't  like 

The  Radical  Club  met  at  Sargent's.  Fine  time. 
Bartol  inspired  ;  Emerson  chairman  ;  Alcott  on  his  legs  ; 
strong-minded  ladies  out  in  full  force ;  aesthetic  tea  for 

October.  —  Agreed  with  F.  to  be  editor  for  $500  a 
year.  Read  manuscripts,  write  one  story  each  month  and 
an  editorial.  On  the  strength  of  this  engagement  went 
to  Boston,  took  a  room  —  No.  6  Hayward  Place  —  fur- 
nished it,  and  set  up  housekeeping  for  myself.  Cannot 
keep  well  in  C.,  so  must  try  Boston,  and  not  work  too 

On  the  28th  rode  to  B.  on  my  load  of  furniture  with 
Fred,  feeling  as  if  I  was  going  to  camp  out  in  a  new  coun- 
try ;  hoped  it  would  prove  a  hospitable  and  healthy 

This    incident    appears  in  "  The   Old-fashioned 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  187 

Girl"  (p.  153),  where  the  country  girl  goes  into 
the  city  in  a  farmer's  cart,  with  a  squash  pie  in 
her  hand  given  her  at  parting  by  an  old  friend. 
Her  sister  May  had  a  drawing  class  at  her  room 
every  day,  which  gave  Louisa  the  pleasure  of 

Miss  Alcott  was  an  enthusiastic  admirer  of 
Dickens,  and  she  entered  into  the  humor  of  his 
homely  characters  most  heartily.  She  acted  "  Mrs. 
Jarley  displaying  her  waxwork'  nine  times  this 
winter,  and  was  always  successful  in  giving  life  and 
variety  to  the  representation.  She  was  constantly 
called  upon  to  act  for  charity.  She  enjoyed  the 
fun.  and  as  she  could  not  give  money,  it  satisfied 
her  generous  nature  to  be  able  to  help  in  any  way. 

She  wrote  an  article  for  Mr.  B.,  called  "  Happy 
Women,"  in  which  she  gratified  her  love  of  single 
life  by  describing  the  delightful  spinsters  of  her  ac- 
quaintance. Her  sketches  are  all  taken  from  life, 
and  are  not  too  highly  colored.  The  Physician, 
the  Artist,  the  Philanthropist,  the  Actress,  the 
Lawyer,  are  easily  recognizable.  They  were  a 
"  glorious  phalanx  of  old  maids,"  as  Theodore 
Parker  called  the  single  women  of  his  Society, 
who  aided  him  so  much  in  his  work. 

To  her  Mother. 

JANUARY,  1868. 

Things  look  promising  for  the  new  year.  F.  $20  for 
the  little  tales,  and  wrote  two  every  month;  G.  $25  for 
the  "  Bells ; '  L.  $100  for  the  two  "Proverb"  stories. 
L.  takes  all  I  '11  send ;  and  F.  seems  satisfied. 

So  my  plan  will  work  well,  and  I  shall  make  my  $1,000 

1 88  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

this  year  in  spite  of  sickness  and  worry.  Praise  the  Lord 
and  keep  busy,  say  I. 

I  am  pretty  well,  and  keep  so  busy  I  have  n't  time  to 
be  sick.  Every  one  is  very  clever  to  me ;  and  I  often 
think  as  I  go  larking  round,  independent,  with  more  work 
than  I  can  do,  and  half-a-duzen  publishers  asking  for 
tales,  of  the  old  times  when  I  went  meekly  from  door  to 
door  peddling  my  first  poor  little  stories,  and  feeling  so 
rich  with  $10. 

It 's  clear  that  Minerva  Moody  is  getting  on,  in  spite  of 
many  downfalls,  and  by  the  time  she  is  a  used  up  old  lady 
of  seventy  or  so  she  may  finish  her  job,  and  see  her  family 
well  off.  A  little  late  to  enjoy  much  may  be  ;  but  I  guess 
I  shall  turn  in  for  my  last  long  sleep  with  more  content,  in 
spite  of  the  mortal  weariness,  than  if  I  had  folded  my  hands 
and  been  supported  in  elegant  idleness,  or  gone  to  the 
devil  in  fits  of  despair  because  things  moved  so  slowly. 

Keep  all  the  money  I  send ;  pay  up  every  bill ;  get 
comforts  and  enjoy  yourselves.  Let 's  be  merry  while  we 
may,  and  lay  up  a  bit  for  a  rainy  day. 

With  which  gem  from  Aristotle,  I  am,  honored  Madam, 
your  dutiful  and  affectionate  L.  M.  ALCOTT. 

Regards  to  Plato.  Don't  he  want  new  socks?  Are 
his  clothes  getting  shiny  ? 

Although,  as  I  have  said,  little  direct  European 
influence  is  observable  in  Miss  Alcott's  writings 
from  her  journeys  in  Europe,  yet  this  first  visit  had 
a  marked  effect  upon  her  life  and  writings.  She 
was  unfavorably  situated  to  gain  the  refreshment 
she  sorely  needed  ;  and  yet  she  did  get  a  great  deal 
from  the  entire  change  of  surroundings,  from  the 
larger  horizon  into  which  she  entered,  from  her 
rich  enjoyment  of  scenery,  and  from  the  variety 

Europe ',  and  Little   Women.  189 

of  companions  she  met.  Probably  she  looked 
through  new  spectacles  at  her  own  work,  as  she  de- 
scribes herself  as  looking  through  those  of  Professor 
Bhaer,  and  she  saw  all  the  defects  of  the  pot-boiling 
stories  which  she  had  been  pouring  out  one  after  > 
another,  without  strong  purpose,  or  regard  for  ar- 
tistic excellence.  She  had  also  the  chance  to  look 
upon  her  own  early  life  and  home  from  a  distance; 
and  as  she  thought  of  the  incidents  of  those  years 
they  grouped  into  more  harmonious  lines,  and  she 
saw  how  much  they  contained  of  real  life,  of  true 
poetry  and  humor,  as  well  as  moral  significance. 
So  the  old  idea  of  "  The  Pathetic  Family '  took 
shape  anew  in  her  mind. 

In  July,  1863,  the  enterprising  firm  of  Roberts 
Brothers  asked  her  for  the  publication  in  book 
form  of  "  Hospital  Sketches,"  which  were  then  ap- 
pearing in  the  "  Commonwealth  "  newspaper,  being 
struck  by  their  intense  reality  and  originality.  At 
the  time,  as  she  states  in  her  journal,  she  preferred 
to  allow  Mr.  Redpath  to  publish  them.  Later,  in 
September,  1867,  Roberts  Brothers  asked  her  to 
write  a  girls'  book  for  them,  and  in  May,  1868, 
they  repeated  the  request  through  her  father,  who 
had  brought  to  them  a  collection  of  short  stories 
for  publication. 

Miss  Alcott's  fancy  had  always  been  for  depict- 
ing the  life  of  boys  rather  than  girls ;  but  she  fort- 
unately took  the  suggestion  of  the  publisher,  and 
said,  like  Ethan  Allen,  "  I  '11  try,  sir."  The  old  idea 
of  "  The  Pathetic  Family  "  recurred  to  her  mind; 
and  she  set  herself  to  describe  the  early  life  of  her 
home.  The  book  was  finished  in  July,  named 

190  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

"  Little  Women,"  and  sent  to  the  publishers,  who 
promptly  accepted  it,  making  Miss  Alcott  an  out- 
right offer  for  the  copyright,  but  at  the  same  time 
advising  her  not  to  part  with  it.  It  was  published 
in  October,  and  the  result  is  well  known.  She  was 
quite  unconscious  of  the  unusual  merit  of  the  book, 
thinking,  as  she  says,  the  first  chapters  dull,  and  so 
was  quite  surprised  at  her  success.  "  It  reads  bet- 
ter than  I  expected,"  she  says ;  and  she  truly  adds, 
"  We  really  lived  most  of  it,  and  if  it  succeeds,  that 
will  be  the  reason  of  it." 

But  that  is  not  the  whole  secret  of  its  success. 
Through  many  trials  and  many  failures  Louisa 
had  learned  her  literary  art.  By  her  experience  in 
melodrama  she  had  proved  the  emptiness  of  sensa- 
tional writing,  and  knew  how  to  present  the  simple 
and  true,  —  seemingly  without  art,  but  really  with 
the  nicest  art  of  discrimination  and  emphasis.  All 
her  previous  training  and  experience  were  needed 
to  fit  her  for  the  production  of  her  masterpiece ; 
for  in  spite  of  all  the  good  work  she  did  later,  this 
remains  her  masterpiece,  by  which  she  will  be  re- 
membered and  loved.  Already  twenty-one  years 
have  passed,  and  another  generation  has  come  up 
since  she  published  this  book,  yet  it  still  commands 
a  steady  sale ;  and  the  mothers  who  read  it  in  their 
childhood  renew  their  enjoyment  as  they  watch  the 
faces  of  their  little  girls  brighten  with  smiles  over 
the  theatricals  in  the  barn,  or  moisten  with  tears  at 
the  death  of  the  beloved  sister.  One  of  the  great- 
est charms  of  the  book  is  its  perfect  truth  to  New 
England  life.  But  it  is  not  merely  local ;  it  touches 
the  universal  heart  deeply. 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  191 

The  excitement  of  the  children  was  intense; 
they  claimed  the  author  as  their  own  property,  and 
felt  as  if  she  were  interpreting  their  very  lives  and 
thoughts.  The  second  series  was  anticipated  with 
the  eagerness  of  a  bulletin  from  the  war  and  the 
stock  market.  But  unlike  Miss  Alcott  herself,  the 
children  took  especial  interest  in  the  love-story, 
and  when  poor  Laurie  was  so  obstinately  refused 
by  Jo,  "they  wept  aloud,  and  refused  to  be  com- 
forted," and  in  some  instances  were  actually  made 
ill  by  grief  and  excitement. 

Miss  Alcott  had  now  secured  publishers  in 
whom  she  placed  perfect  confidence,  and  who 
henceforth  relieved  her  of  the  worry  of  business 
matters,  dealing  directly  and  fairly  by  her,  and 
consulting  her  interests  as  well  as  their  own.  This 
is  abundantly  shown  by  her  private  journals  and 

The  success  of  "  Little  Women "  was  so  well 
assured  that  Miss  Alcott  at  once  set  about  prepar- 
ing the  second  part,  which  was  eagerly  demanded 
by  the  little  women  outside,  who  wanted  all  the 
girls  to  marry,  and  rather  troubled  her  by  wishing 
to  settle  matters  their  own  way.  She  finished 
writing  the  sequel,  which  had  been  rapid  work, 
Jan.  i,  1869. 

The  success  of  "Little  Women'11  was  not  con- 
fined to  this  country.  The  book  was  translated 
into  French,  German,  and  Dutch,  and  has  become 
familiarly  known  in  England  and  on  the  Continent. 
In  Holland  the  first  series  was  published  under  the 
title  "  Under  the  Mother's  Wings,"  and  the  second 
part  as  "  On  Their  Own  Wings;  "  and  these  two 

192  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

books  with  "  Work  "  established  her  fame  among 
the  children,  who  still  continue  to  read  her  stories 
with  fresh  delight. 

It  is  hardly  necessary  to  analyze  or  criticise  this 
happy  production.  It  is  a  realistic  transcript  of 
life,  but  idealized  by  the  tenderness  of  real  feeling. 
It  teaches  the  lessons  of  every-day  conduct  and 
inculcates  the  simplest  virtues  of  truth,  earnest 
effort,  and  loving  affection.  There  is  abundant 
humor,  but  no  caricature,  and  tender,  deep  feeling 
without  sentimentality. 

Miss  Alcott  herself  did  not  wish  her  representa- 
tive, Jo,  to  marry;  but  the  demand  of  the  publisher 
and  the  public  was  so  imperative  that  she  created 
her  German  professor,  of  whom  no  prototype  ex- 
isted. While  some  of  her  romantic  young  readers 
were  not  satisfied  at  Jo's  preferring  him  to  the 
charming  Laurie,  he  is  certainly  a  genuine,  warm- 
hearted man,  who  would  probably  have  held  her 
affections  by  his  strong  moral  and  intellectual  traits. 
That  he  became  a  very  living  personality  to  the 
author  is  evident  from  his  reappearance  in  "  Jo's 
Boys,"  where  he  has  the  same  strong,  cheery  influ- 
ence in  the  school  and  home  that  she  found  from 
him  in  her  girlhood.  The  style  of  the  book  is 
thoroughly  easy  and  colloquial;  and  the  girls  talk 
and  act  like  girls,  and  not  like  prim  little  women. 
The  influence  of  the  book  has  been  wide  and 
deep,  and  has  helped  to  make  a  whole  generation 
of  girls  feel  a  deeper  sense  of  family  love  and 
the  blessings  to  be  gained  from  lives  of  earnest 
effort,  mutual  sacrifice,  and  high  aims. 

Much  interest  has  been  expressed  in  regard  to 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  193 

the  originals  of  the  characters  in  "  Little  Women." 
This  is  the  author's  own  statement:  — 

Facts  in  the  stones  that  are  true,  though  often  changed 
as  to  time  and  place  :  — 

"  Little  Women  "  —  The  early  plays  and  experiences  ; 
Beth's  death  ;  Jo's  literary  and  Amy's  artistic  experiences  ; 
Meg's  happy  home  ;  John  Brooke  and  his  death ;  Demi's 
character.  Mr.  March  did  not  go  to  the  war,  but  Jo  did. 
Mrs.  March  is  all  true,  only  not-  half  good  enough. 
Laurie  is  not  an  American  boy,  though  every  lad  I  ever 
knew  claims  the  character.  He  was  a  Polish  boy,  met 
abroad  in  1865.  ^r>  Lawrence  is  my  grandfather, 
Colonel  Joseph  May.  Aunt  March  is  no  one. 


January,  1868.  Gamp's  Garret,  Hay  ward  PLice, 
Boston.  —  The  year  begins  well  and  cheerfully  for  us 
all.  Father  and  Mother  comfortable  at  home ;  Anna 
and  family  settled  in  Chelsea ;  May  busy  with  her  draw- 
ing classes,  of  which  she  has  five  or  six,  and  the  prospect 
of  earning  $150  a  quarter;  also  she  is  well  and  in  goo  1 

I  am  in  my  little  room,  spending  busy,  happy  days, 
because  I  have  quiet,  freedom,  work  enough,  and 
strength  to  do  it.  F.  pays  me  $500  a  year  for  my  name 
and  some  editorial  work  on  Merry's  Museum ;  "  The 
Youth's  Companion '  pays  $20  for  two  short  tales  each 
month;  L.  $50  and  $100  for  all  I  will  send  him;  and 
others  take  anything  I  have.  My  way  seems  clear  for 
the  year  if  I  can  only  keep  well.  I  want  to  realize 
my  dream  of  supporting  the  family  and  being  perfectly 
independent.  Heavenly  hope  ! 

194  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

I  have  written  twenty-five  stories  the  past  year,  besides 
the  fairy  book  containing  twelve.  Have  earned  $1,000, 
paid  my  own  way,  sent  home  some,  paid  up  debts,  and 
helped  May. 

For  many  years  we  have  not  been  so  comfortable  : 
May  and  I  both  earning,  Annie  with  her  good  John  to 
lean  on,  and  the  old  people  in  a  cosey  home  of  our  own. 

After  last  winter's  hard  experience,  we  cannot  be  too 

To-day  my  first  hyacinth  bloomed,  white  and  sweet,  — 
a  good  omen,  —  a  little  flag  of  truce,  perhaps,  from  the 
enemies  whom  we  have  been  fighting  all  these  years. 
Perhaps  we  are  to  win  after  all,  and  conquer  poverty, 
neglect,  pain,  and  debt,  and  march  on  with  flags  flying 
into  the  new  world  with  the  new  year. 

Thursday,  ith.  —  A  queer  day.  Up  early,  and  had 
my  bread  and  milk  and  baked  apples.  Fed  my  doves. 
Made  May  a  bonnet,  and  cut  out  a  flannel  wrapper  for 
Marmee,  who  feels  the  cold  in  the  Concord  snowbanks. 
Did  my  editorial  work  in  the  p.  M.,  and  fixed  my  dresses 
for  the  plays.  L.  sent  $50,  and  F.  $40,  for  tales.  A. 
and  boys  came. 

To  Dorchester  in  evening,  and  acted  Mrs.  Pontifex,  in 
"  Naval  Engagements,"  to  a  good  house.  A  gay  time, 
had  flowers,  etc.  Talked  half  the  night  with  H.  A.  about 
the  fast  ways  of  young  people  nowadays,  and  gave  the 
child  much  older-sisterly  advice,  as  no  one  seems  to  see 
how  much  she  needs  help  at  this  time  of  her  young  life. 

Dreamed  that  I  was  an  opera  dancer,  and  waked  up 

Wednesday,  \$th. — Wrote  all  day.  Did  two  short 
tales  for  F.  In  the  evening  with  A.  M.  to  hear  Fanny 
Kemble  read  "The  Merchant  of  Venice."  She  was  a 
whole  stock  company  in  herself.  Looked  younger  and 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  195 

handsomer  than  ever  before,  and  happy,  as  she  is  to  be 
with  her  daughters  now.  We  went  to  supper  afterwards 
at  Mrs.  Parkman's,  and  saw  the  lioness  feed.  It  was  a 
study  to  watch  her  face,  so  full  of  varying  expression 
was  it,  —  always  strong,  always  sweet,  then  proud  and 
fierce  as  she  sniffed  at  nobodies  who  passed  about  her. 
Being  one,  I  kept  away,  and  enjoyed  the  great  creature 
afar  off,  wondering  how  a  short,  stout,  red  woman  could 
look  so  like  a  queen  in  her  purple  velvet  and  point  lace. 

Slipped  behind  a  door,  but  Dr.  Holmes  found  me 
out,  and  affably  asked,  "  How  many  of  you  children  are 
there?'  As  I  was  looking  down  on  the  top  of  his  illus- 
trious head,  the  question  was  funny.  But  I  answered 
the  little  man  with  deep  respect,  "  Four,  sir."  He 
seemed  to  catch  my  naughty  thought,  and  asked,  with 
a  twinkle  in  his  eye,  looking  up  as  if  I  were  a  steeple, 
"And  all  as  tall  as  you?"  Ha!  ha! 

iS///.  —  Played  again  at  D.,  and  had  a  jolly  time. 
Home  early,  and  putting  off  my  fine  feathers,  fell  to 
work  on  my  stories.  F.  seems  to  expect  me  to  write  the 
whole  magazine,  which  I  did  not  bargain  for. 

To  Nan's  in  p.  M.,  to  take  care  of  her  while  the  Papa 
and  Freddie  went  to  C.  The  dear  little  man,  so  happy 
and  important  with  his  bit  of  a  bag,  six  pennies,  and  a 
cake  for  refreshment  during  the  long  journey  of  an  hour. 

We  brooded  over  Johnny  as  if  he  were  a  heavenly 
sort  of  fire  to  warm  and  comfort  us  with  his  sunny  little 
face  and  loving  ways.  She  is  a  happy  woman  !  I  sell 
my  children ;  and  though  they  feed  me,  they  don't  love 
me  as  hers  do. 

Little  Tranquillity  played  alone  all  day,  and  made  a 
pretty  picture  sitting  in  "marmar's"  lap  in  his  night-gown, 
talking  through  the  trumpet  to  her.  She  never  heard  his 
sweet  little  voice  in  any  other  way.  Poor  Nan  ! 

196  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Wednesday,  22^.  —  To  the  Club  with  Father.  A  good 
paper  on  the  "  Historical  View  of  Jesus."  Father  spoke 
finely.  It  amuses  me  to  see  how  people  listen  and  ap- 
plaud now  what  was  hooted  at  twenty  years  ago. 

The  talk  lasted  until  two,  and  then  the  hungry  phi- 
losophers remembered  they  had  bodies  and  rushed  away, 
still  talking. 

[Hard  to  feed.  — L.  M.  A.  ] 

Got  a  snow-slide  on  my  bonnet,  so  made  another  in  the 
p.  M.,  and  in  the  evening  to  the  Antislavery  Festival.  All 
the  old  faces  and  many  new  ones.  Glad  I  have  lived  in 
the  time  of  this  great  movement,  and  known  its  heroes 
so  well.  War  times  suit  me,  as  I  am  a  righting  May. 

24/7*.  —  My  second  hyacinth  bloomed  pale  blue,  like  a 
timid  hope,  and  I  took  the  omen  for  a  good  one,  as  I 
am  getting  on,  and  have  more  than  I  can  do  of  the  work 
that  I  once  went  begging  for.  Enjoyed  the  little  spring 
my  little  flower  made  for  me,  and  Buzzy,  my  pet  fly, 
moved  into  the  sweet  mansion  from  his  hanging  garden 
in  the  ivy  pot. 

Acted  in  Cambridge,  Lucretia  Buzzard  and  Mrs. 

Sunday,  31^.  —  Last  day  of  the  month,  but  I'm  not 
satisfied  with  my  four  weeks'  work.  Acting  for  charity 
upsets  my  work.  The  change  is  good  for  me,  and  so  I 
do  it,  and  because  I  have  no  money  to  give. 

Four  tales  this  month.  Received  $70 ;  sent  $30 
home.  No  debts. 

February  \st.  —  Arranged  "Hospital  Sketches  and 
War  Stories "  for  a  book.  By  taking  out  all  Biblical 
allusions,  and  softening  all  allusions  to  rebs.,  the  book 
may  be  made  "quite  perfect,"  I  am  told.  Anything  to 
suit  customers. 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  197 

Friday,  14^/1.  —  My  third  hyacinth  bloomed  this  A.M., 
a  lovely  pink.     So  I  found  things  snug,  and  had  a  busy 

day  chasing who  dodged.     Then  I  wrote  my  tales. 

Made  some  shirts  for  my  boys,  and  went  out  to  buy 
a  squash  pie  for  my  lonely  supper.  It  snowed ;  was 
very  cold.  No  one  paid,  and  I  wanted  to  send  some 
money  home.  Felt  cross  and  tired  as  I  trudged  back 
at  dusk.  My  pie  turned  a  somersault,  a  boy  laughed, 
so  did  I,  and  felt  better.  On  my  doorstep  I  found  a 
gentleman  who  asked  if  Miss  A.  lived  here.  I  took 
him  up  my  winding  stair  and  found  him  a  very  delight- 
ful fly,  for  he  handed  me  a  letter  out  of  which  fell  a 
$100  bill.  With  this  bait  Mr.  B.  lured  me  to  write  "one 
column  of  Advice  to  Young  Women,"  as  Mrs.  Shaw 
and  others  were  doing.  If  he  had  asked  me  for  a 
Greek  oration  I  would  have  said  "  yes."  So  I  gave  a 
receipt,  and  the  very  elegant  agent  bowed  himself  away, 
leaving  my  "  'umble  "  bower  full  of  perfume,  and  my  soul 
of  peace. 

Thriftily  taking  advantage  of  the  enthusiastic  moment, 
I  planned  my  article  while  I  ate  my  dilapidated  pie,  and 
then  proceeded  to  write  it  with  the  bill  before  me.  It 
was  about  old  maids.  "  Happy  Women"  was  the  title, 
and  I  put  in  my  list  all  the  busy,  useful,  independent 
spinsters  I  know,  for  liberty  is  a  better  husband  than  love 
to  many  of  us.  This  was  a  nice  little  episode  in  my 
trials  of  an  authoress,  so  I  record  it. 

So  the  pink  hyacinth  was  a  true  prophet,  and  I  went 
to  bed  a  happy  millionaire,  to  dream  of  flannel  petticoats 
for  my  blessed  Mother,  paper  for  Father,  a  new  dress  for 
May,  and  sleds  for  my  boys. 

Monday,  i^f/i.  —  Father  came  full  of  plans  about  his 
book.  Went  with  him  to  the  Club.  P.  read  a  paper, 
and  the  Rabbi  Nathan  talked.  A  curious  jumble  of 

198  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

fools  and  philosophers.  The  Club  should  be  kept  more 
select,  and  not  be  run  by  one  person. 

Tuesday,  2$th.  —  Note  from  Lady  Amberly  as  I  sat 
sewing  on  my  ninepenny  dress.  She  wanted  to  come 
and  see  me,  and  I  told  her  to  do  so,  and  I  'd  show  her 
how  I  lived  in  my  sky-parlor,  —  spinning  yarns  like  a 
spider.  Met  her  at  the  Club,  and  liked  her,  so  simple 
and  natural. 

Acted  for  Mr.  Clarke's  Church  Fair  in  the  evening. 
Did  Mrs.  Jarley  three  times.  Very  hoarse  with  a  cold, 
but  kept  my  promise. 

"  Proverb  Stories"  suggested,  and  "  Kitty's  Class-Day" 

Friday,  28//z.  —  Packed  for  home,  as  I  am  needed 
there,  and  acted  Jarley  for  the  third  evening.  Have 
done  it  nine  times  this  week,  and  my  voice  is  gone. 

I  am  sorry  to  leave  my  quiet  room,  for  I  Ve  enjoyed 
it  very  much. 

Written  eight  long  tales,  ten  short  ones,  read  stacks  of 
manuscripts,  and  done  editorial  work.  Acted  for  charity 
twelve  times. 

Not  a  bad  two  months'  work.  I  can  imagine  an  easier 
life,  but  with  love,  health,  and  work  I  can  be  happy ;  for 
these  three  help  one  to  do,  to  be,  and  to  endure  all 

March,  April,  and  May.  —  Had  the  pleasure  of  pro- 
viding Marmee  with  many  comforts,  and  keeping  the 
hounds  of  care  and  debt  from  worrying  her.  She  sits 
at  rest  in  her  sunny  room,  and  that  is  better  than  any 
amount  of  fame  "to  me. 

May,  1868.  —  Father  saw  Mr.  Niles  about  a  fairy 
book.  Mr.  N.  wants  a  girls'  story,  and  I  begin  "  Little 
Women."  Marmee,  Anna,  and  May  all  approve  my 
plan.  So  I  plod  away,  though  I  don't  enjoy  this  sort 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  199 

of  thing.  Never  liked  girls  or  knew  many,  except  my 
sisters ;  but  our  queer  plays  and  experiences  may  prove 
interesting,  though  I  doubt  it. 

[Good  joke.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

June.  —  Sent  twelve  chapters  of  "L.  W."  to  Mr.  N. 
He  thought  it  dull;  so  do  I.  But  work  away  and  mean 
to  try  the  experiment ;  for  lively,  simple  books  are  very 
much  needed  for  girls,  and  perhaps  I  can  supply  the 

Wrote  two  tales  for  Ford,  and  one  for  F.  L.  clamors 
for  more,  but  must  wait. 

July  i$t/i.  —  Have  finished  "Little  Women,"  and  sent 
it  off,  —  402  pages.  May  is  designing  some  pictures  for 
it.  Hope  it  will  go,  for  I  shall  probably  get  nothing  for 
"Morning  Glories." 

Very  tired,  head  full  of  pain  from  overwork,  and  heart 
heavy  about  Marmee,  who  is  growing  feeble. 

[Too  much  work  for  one  young  woman.  No  wonder  she 
broke  down.  1876.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

August.  —  Roberts  Bros,  made  an  offer  for  the  story, 
but  at  the  same  time  advised  me  to  keep  the  copyright ; 
so  I  shall. 

[An  honest  publisher  and  a  lucky  author,  for  the  copy- 
right made  her  fortune,  and  the  "  dull  book "  was  the  first 
golden  egg  of  the  ugly  duckling.  1885.  --L.  M.  A.] 

August  26th.  —  Proof  of  whole  book  came.  It  reads 
better  than  I  expected.  Not  a  bit  sensational,  but  simple 
and  true,  for  we  really  lived  most  of  it ;  and  if  it  suc- 
ceeds that  will  be  the  reason  of  it.  Mr.  N.  likes  it  better 
now,  and  says  some  girls  who  have  read  the  manuscripts 
say  it  is  "  splendid  ! '  As  it  is  for  them,  they  are  the 
best  critics,  so  I  should  be  satisfied. 

2OO  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

September.  —  Father's  book  ["Tablets"]  came  out. 
Very  simple  outside,  wise  and  beautiful  within.  Hope  it 
will  bring  him  praise  and  profit,  for  he  has  waited  long. 

No  girl,  Mother  poorly,  May  busy  with  pupils,  Nan 
with  her  boys,  and  much  work  to  be  done.  We  don't 
like  the  kitchen  department,  and  our  tastes  and  gifts  lie 
in  other  directions,  so  it  is  hard  to  make  the  various 
Pegasuses  pull  the  plan  steadily. 

October  8//i.  —  Marmee's  birthday;  sixty-eight.  After 
breakfast  she  found  her  gifts  on  a  table  in  the  study. 
Father  escorted  her  to  the  big  red  chair,  the  boys 
prancing  before  blowing  their  trumpets,  while  we  "girls" 
marched  behind,  glad  to  see  the  dear  old  Mother  better 
and  able  to  enjoy  our  little  fete.  The  boys  proudly 
handed  her  the  little  parcels,  and  she  laughed  and  cried 
over  our  gifts  and  verses. 

I  feel  as  if  the  decline  had  begun  for  her ;  and  each 
year  will  add  to  the  change  which  is  going  on,  as  time 
alters  the  energetic,  enthusiastic  home-mother  into  a 
gentle,  feeble  old  woman,  to  be  cherished  and  helped 
tenderly  down  the  long  hill  she  has  climbed  so  bravely 
with  her  many  burdens. 

October  26th. --Came  to  Boston,  and  took  a  quiet 
room  in  Brookline  Street.  Heard  Emerson  in  the  even- 
ing. Sent  a  report  of  it  to  A.  P.  for  the  "Standard  "  at 
his  desire. 

Anna  is  nicely  settled  in  her  new  house,  and  Marmee 
is  with  her.  Helped  put  down  carpets  and  settle  things. 

30//z.  —  Saw  Mr.  N.  of  Roberts  Brothers,  and  he  gave 
me  good  news  of  the  book.  An  order  from  London  for 
an  edition  came  in.  First  edition  gone  and  more  called 
for.  Expects  to  sell  three  or  four  thousand  before  the 
New  Year. 

Mr.  N.  wants  a  second  volume  for  spring.     Pleasant 

j  and  Little   Women.  201 

notices  and  letters  arrive,  and  much  interest  in  my 
little  women,  who  seem  to  find  friends  by  their  truth 
to  life,  as  I  hoped. 

November  \st.  —  Began  the  second  part  of  "  Little 
Women."  I  can  do  a  chapter  a  day,  and  in  a  month 
I  mean  to  be  done.  A  little  success  is  so  inspiring  that 
I  now  find  my  "  Marches  "  sober,  nice  people,  and  as  I 
can  launch  into  the  future,  my  fancy  has  more  play. 
Girls  write  to  ask  who  the  little  women  marry,  as  if  that 
was  the  only  end  and  aim  of  a  woman's  life.  I  won't 
marry  Jo  to  Laurie  to  please  any  one. 

Monday,  i6///. — To  the  Club  for  a  change,  as  I  have 
written  like  a  steam  engine  since  the  ist.  Weiss  read  a 
fine  paper  on  "Woman  Suffrage."  Good  talk  afterward. 
Lunched  with  Kate  Field,  Celia  Thaxter,  and  Mr.  Linton. 
Woman's  Club  in  p.  M. 

iy//2.  —  Finished  my  thirteenth  chapter.  I  am  so  full 
of  my  work,  I  can't  stop  to  eat  or  sleep,  or  for  anything 
but  a  daily  run. 

29/7*.  —  My  birthday;  thirty-six.  Spent  alone,  writ- 
ing hard.  No  presents  but  Father's  "Tablets." 

I  never  seem  to  have  many  presents,  as  some  do, 
though  I  give  a  good  many.  That  is  best  perhaps,  and 
makes  a  gift  very  precious  when  it  does  come. 

December.  —  Home  to  shut  up  the  house,  as  Father 
goes  West  and  Mother  to  Anna's.  A  cold,  hard,  dirty 
time  ;  but  was  so  glad  to  be  off  out  of  C.  that  I  worked 
like  a  beaver,  and  turned  the  key  on  Apple  Slump  with 

May  and  I  went  to  the  new  Bellevue  Hotel  in  Beacon 

Street.  She  does  n't  enjoy  quiet  corners  as  I  do,  so  we 
took  a  sky-parlor,  and  had  a  queer  time  whisking  up  and 
down  in  the  elevator,  eating  in  a  marble  cafe",  and  sleeping 
on  a  sofa  bed,  that  we  might  be  genteel.  It  did  not  suit 

2O2  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

me  at  all.  A  great  gale  nearly  blew  the  roof  off.  Steam 
pipes  exploded,  and  we  were  hungry.  I  was  very  tired 
with  my  hard  summer,  with  no  rest  for  the  brains  that 
earn  the  money. 

January,  1869.  —  Left  our  lofty  room  at  Bellevue  and 
went  to  Chauncey  Street.  Sent  the  sequel  of  "  L.  W." 
to  Roberts  on  New  Year's  Day.  Hope  it  will  do  as  well 
as  the  first,  which  is  selling  finely,  and  receives  good 
notices.  F.  and  F.  both  want  me  to  continue  working 
for  them,  and  I  shall  do  so  if  I  am  able ;  but  my  head- 
aches, cough,  and  weariness  keep  me  from  working  as  I 
once  could,  fourteen  hours  a  day. 

In  March  we  went  home,  as  Mother  was  restless  at 
Nan's,  and  Father  wanted  his  library.  Cold  and  dull ; 
not  able  to  write ;  so  took  care  of  Marmee  and  tried  to 

Paid  up  all  the  debts,  thank  the  Lord  !  —  every  penny 
that  money  can  pay,  —  and  now  I  feel  as  if  I  could  die 
in  peace.  My  dream  is  beginning  to  come  true  ;  and  if 
my  head  holds  out  I  '11  do  all  I  once  hoped  to  do. 

April.  —  Very  poorly.  Feel  quite  used  up.  Don't 
care  much  for  myself,  as  rest  is  heavenly  even  with  pain ; 
but  the  family  seem  so  panic-stricken  and  helpless  when 
I  break  down,  that  I  try  to  keep  the  mill  going.  Two 
short  tales  for  L.,  $50;  two  for  Ford,  $20;  and  did 
my  editorial  work,  though  two  months  are  unpaid  for. 
Roberts  wants  a  new  book,  but  am  afraid  to  get  into  a 
vortex  lest  I  fall  ill. 

To  her  Publishers. 

BOSTON,  Dec.  28,  1869. 

Many  thanks  for  the  check  which  made  my  Christmas 
an  unusually  merry  one. 

After  toiling  so  many  years  along  the  uphill  road,  — 

Europe,  and  Little   Women.  203 

always  a  hard  one  to  women  writers,  —  it  is  peculiarly 
grateful  to  me  to  find  the  way  growing  easier  at  last,  with 
pleasant  little  surprises  blossoming  on  either  side,  and 
the  rough  places  made  smooth  by  the  courtesy  and  kind- 
ness of  those  who  have  proved  themselves  friends  as  well 
as  publishers. 

With  best  wishes  for  the  coming  year, 

I  am  yours  truly,  L.  M.  ALCOTT. 

AUGUST,  1871. 

DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  Many  thanks  for  the  fortune  and 
the  kind  note  accompanying  it.  Please  hand  the  money 
to  S.  E.  S.,  and  he  will  put  it  somewhere  for  me.  .  .  . 

You  are  very  kind  to  find  a  minute  out  of  your  hurried 
day  to  attend  to  this  affair.  .  .  .  I  'm  not  sure  but  I  shall 
try  Dr.  B.  if  my  present  and  ninth  doctor  fails  to  cure  my 
aching  bones.  I  have  n't  a  bit  of  faith  in  any  of  them  ; 
but  my  friends  won't  let  me  gently  slip  away  where  bones 
cease  from  troubling,  so  I  must  keep  trying. 

Very  gratefully  your  friend,  L.  M.  A. 

Written   in    1871,  just  after   the   publication   of 

"  Little  Men":  — 

AUGUST  5th. 

DEAR  MR.  NILES, — Thanks  for  the  parcel  and  notes. 

.  .  .  The  letters  were  very  gushing  from  Nellie  and 
Dollie  and  Sallie  Somebody  asking  for  pictures,  auto- 
graphs, family  history,  and  several  new  books  right  away. 

I  must  give  Dr.  R.  a  fair  trial,  and  if  he  fails  I  '11  try 
Dr.  B.,  just  to  make  up  the  number  of  doctors  to  a 
round  ten. 

"  Happy  Thoughts  '  is  very  funny,  especially  the  trip 
to  Antwerp. 

Yours  truly,  L.  M.  A. 




LONG  ago  in  a  poultry  yard 

One  dull  November  morn, 
Beneath  a  motherly  soft  wing 

A  little  goose  was  born. 

Who  straightway  peeped  out  of  the  shell 

To  view  the  world  beyond, 
Longing  at  once  to  sally  forth 

And  paddle  in  the  pond. 

"  Oh  !  be  not  rash,"  her  father  said, 

A  mild  Socratic  bird  ; 
Her  mother  begged  her  not  to  stray 

With  many  a  warning  word. 

But  little  goosey  was  perverse, 

And  eagerly  did  cry, 
"  I  've  got  a  lovely  pair  of  wings, 

Of  course  I  ought  to  fly." 

In  vain  parental  cacklings, 

In  vain  the  cold  sky's  frown, 
Ambitious  goosey  tried  to  soar, 

But  always  tumbled  down. 

The  farm-yard  jeered  at  her  attempts, 
The  peacocks  screamed,  "  Oh  fie ! 

You  're  only  a  domestic  goose, 
So  don't  pretend  to  fly." 

Great  cock-a-doodle  from  his  perch 
Crowed  daily  loud  and  clear,  . 

"  Stay  in  the  puddle,  foolish  bird, 
That  is  your  proper  sphere." 

Europe.  205 

The  ducks  and  hens  said,  one  and  all, 

In  gossip  by  the  pool, 
"  Our  children  never  play  such  pranks  ; 

My  dear,  that  fowl 's  a  fool." 

The  owls  came  out  and  flew  about, 

Hooting  above  the  rest, 
"  No  useful  egg  was  ever  hatched 

From  transcendental  nest." 

Good  little  goslings  at  their  play 

And  well-conducted  chicks 
Were  taught  to  think  poor  goosey's  flights 

Were  naughty,  ill-bred  tricks. 

They  were  content  to  swim  and  scratch, 

And  not  at  all  inclined 
For  any  wild-goose  chase  in  search 

Of  something  undefined. 

Hard  times  she  had  as  one  may  guess, 

That  young  aspiring  bird, 
Who  still  from  every  fall  arose 

Saddened  but  undeterred. 

She  knew  she  was  no  nightingale, 

Yet  spite  of  much  abuse, 
She  longed  to  help  and  cheer  the  world, 
Although  a  plain  gray  goose. 

She  could  not  sing,  she  could  not  fly, 

Nor  even  walk  with  grace, 
And  all  the  farm-yard  had  declared 

A  puddle  was  her  place. 

But  something  stronger  than  herself 

Would  cry,  "  Go  on,  go  on  ! 
Remember,  though  an  humble  fowl, 

You  're  cousin  to  a  swan." 

So  up  and  down  poor  goosey  went, 

A  busy,  hopeful  bird. 
Searched  many  wide  unfruitful  fields, 

And  many  waters  stirred. 

At  length  she  came  unto  a  stream 

Most  fertile  of  all  Niles, 
Where  tuneful  birds  might  soar  and  sing 

Among  the  leafy  isles. 

206  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Here  did  she  build  a  little  nest 

Beside  the  waters  still, 
Where  the  parental  goose  could  rest 

Unvexed  by  any  bill. 

And  here  she  paused  to  smooth  her  plumes, 

Ruffled  by  many  plagues  ; 
When  suddenly  arose  the  cry, 

"This  goose  lays  golden  eggs." 

At  once  the  farm-yard  was  agog ; 

The  ducks  began  to  quack  ; 
Prim  Guinea  fowls  relenting  called, 

"  Come  back,  come  back,  come  back." 

Great  chanticleer  was  pleased  to  give 

A  patronizing  crow, 
And  the  contemptuous  biddies  clucked, 

"  I  wish  my  chicks  did  so." 

The  peacocks  spread  their  shining  tails, 

And  cried  in  accents  soft, 
"  We  want  to  know  you,  gifted  one, 

Come  up  and  sit  aloft." 

Wise  owls  awoke  and  gravely  said, 
With  proudly  swelling  breasts, 

"  Rare  birds  have  always  been  evoked 
From  transcendental  nests  !  " 

News-hunting  turkeys  from  afar 

Now  ran  with  all  thin  legs 
To  gobble  facts  and  fictions  of 

The  goose  with  golden  eggs. 

But  best  of  all  the  little  fowls 

Still  playing  on  the  shore, 
Soft  downy  chicks  and  goslings  gay, 

Chirped  out,  "  Dear  Goose,  lay  more." 

But  goosey  all  these  weary  years 

Had  toiled  like  any  ant, 
And  wearied  out  she  now  replied, 

"  My  little  dears,  I  can't. 

"  When  I  was  starving,  half  this  corn 

Had  been  of  vital  use, 
Now  I  am  surfeited  with  food 

Like  any  Strasbourg  goose." 

Europe.  207 

So  to  escape  too  many  friends, 

Without  uncivil  strife, 
She  ran  to  the  Atlantic  pond 

And  paddled  for  her  life. 

Soon  up  among  the  grand  old  Alps 
She  found  two  blessed  things, 

The  health  she  had  so  nearly  lost, 
And  rest  for  weary  limbs. 

But  still  across  the  briny  deep 
4    Couched  in  most  friendly  words, 
Came  prayers  for  letters,  tales,  or  verse, 
From  literary  birds. 

Whereat  the  renovated  fowl 
With  grateful  thanks  profuse, 

Took  from  her  wing  a  quill  and  wrote 
This  lay  of  a  Golden  Goose. 

BEX,  SWITZERLAND,  August,  1870. 

THE  year  1869  was  less  fruitful  in  work  than 
the  preceding  one.  Miss  Alcott  spent  the 
winter  in  Boston  and  the  summer  in  Concord. 
She  was  ill  and  very  tired,  and  felt  little  inclined 
for  mental  effort.  "  Hospital  Sketches,"  which 
had  been  first  published  by  Redpath,  was  now  re- 
published  by  Roberts  Brothers,  with  the  addition 
of  six  shorter  "  Camp  and  Fireside  Stories."  The 
interest  of  the  public  in  either  the  author  or  the 
work  had  not  lessened ;  for  two  thousand  copies 
of  the  book  in  its  new  form  were  sold  the  first 
week.  In  her  weary  condition  she  finds  her  celeb- 
rity rather  a  burden  than  a  pleasure,  and  says  in 
her  journal : — 

People  begin  to  come  and  stare  at  the  Alcotts.     Re- 
porters  haunt  the  place   to  look  at  the  authoress,  who 

208  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

dodges  into  the  woods   a  la  Hawthorne,  and  won't  be 
even  a  very  small  lion. 

Refreshed  my  soul  with  Goethe,  ever  strong  and  fine 
and  alive.  Gave  S.  E.  S.  $200  to  invest.  What  rich- 
ness to  have  a  little  not  needed  ! 

Miss  Alcott  had  some  pleasant  refreshment  in 
travelling  during  the  summer. 

July.  —  ...  Spent  in  Canada  with  my  cousins,  the 
Frothinghams,  at  their  house  at  Riviere  du  Loup,  —  a 
little  village  on  the  St.  Lawrence,  full  of  queer  people. 
Drove,  read,  and  walked  with  the  little  ones.  A  pleasant, 
quiet  time. 

Aiigust.  —  .  .  »  A  month  with  May  at  Mt.  Desert. 
A  gay  time,  and  a  little  rest  and  pleasure  before  the  old 
pain  and  worry  began  again. 

Made  up  $1,000  for  S.  E.  S.  to  invest.  Now  I  have 
$1,200  for  a  rainy  day,  and  no  debts.  With  that  thought 
I  can  bear  neuralgia  gayly. 

In  the  autumn  the  whole  family  went  to  Boston, 
the  father  and  mother  staying  with  Mrs.  Pratt; 
while  Louisa  and  her  sister  May,  "  the  workers," 
occupied  rooms  in  Pinckney  Street.  Not  being 
well  enough  to  do  much  new  work,  Louisa  began 
using  up  her  old  stones,  and  found  that  the  little 
women  "  helped  their  rejected  sisters  to  good 
places  where  once  they  went  a-begging."  In 
January,  1870,  she  suffered  from  loss  of  voice, 
for  which  she  tried  "heroic  treatment"  under  a 
distinguished  physician.  She  got  well  enough  to 
write  a  little,  and  in  February  wrote  the  conclusion 
to  "  The  Old-fashioned  Girl,"  which  was  published 
in  March.  She  says :  — 

Europe.  209 

I  wrote  it  with  left  hand  in  a  sling,  one  foot  up,  head 
aching,  and  no  voice.  Yet,  as  the  book  is  funny,  people 
will  say,  "  Did  n't  you  enjoy  doing  it?  '  I  often  think  of 
poor  Tom  Hood  as  I  scribble,  rather  than  lie  and  groan. 
I  certainly  earn  my  living  by  the  sweat  of  my  brow. 

The  book  does  not  reveal  this  condition  ;  for 
nothing  could  be  fresher,  brighter,  and  more 
wholesome  than  the  heroine  Polly,  many  of  whose 
adventures  are  drawn  from  the  author's  own  ex- 
perience. She  steps  out  of  her  usual  surroundings 
into  the  fashionable  life  of  the  city,  but  betrays 
her  own  want  of  sympathy  with  it.  The  book  has 
always  been  very  popular. 

In  1870,  the  success  of  "  Hospital  Sketches  "  and 
the  continued  receipts  from  "  Little  Women"  put 
their  author  in  a  pecuniary  position  which  enabled 
her  to  go  abroad  for  the  rest  and  refreshment  which 
she  sorely  needed.  The  younger  sister  was  invited 
to  go  by  her  friend  A.  B.  on  condition  that  Louisa 
would  accompany  them.  This  journey  was  very 
free  and  independent.  She  has  given  an  account 
—  somewhat  travestied  certainly,  but  very  true  to 
the  general  facts  —  in  "  Shawl  Straps,"  although 
the  reader  would  hardly  suppose  the  old  lady  de- 
scribed in  that  book  had  not  yet  reached  her 
fortieth  year.  These  sketches  were  arranged  after 
her  return,  at  the  request  of  Mrs.  Stowe,  for  the 
"  Christian  Union,"  and  were  published  in  a  book 
forming  one  volume  of  "  Aunt  Jo's  Scrap-Bag"  in 

Fortunately  we  have  many  of  Louisa's  original 
letters  preserved  in  her  father's  copies,  which  have 



2IO  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

escaped  the  destruction  of  her  correspondence. 
With  some  extracts  from  her  journals,  they  give 
a  sufficient  account  of  this  journey.  In  many  re- 
spects the  contrast  to  her  former  visit  to  Europe  is 
most  pleasant.  She  has  now  become  pecuniarily  in- 
dependent by  her  own  exertions,  and  has  a  popular 
reputation  which  brings  her  \velcome  and  recogni- 
tion wherever  she  goes.  But  she  has  paid  a  heavy 
price  for  these  gains.  Her  health  has  become  seri- 
ously shattered.  The  long  application  to  writing, 
sometimes  even  for  fourteen  hours  a  day,  —  a  pres- 
sure of  excitement  which  kept  her  from  eating  and 
sleeping,  —  added  to  sorrow  and  anxiety,  have  told 
upon  her  nerves  and  strength,  and  she  is  often  un- 
fitted to  enjoy  the  pleasures  which  are  open  to  her. 
Yet  her  journal  and  letters  are  as  full  of  wit  and 
humor  as  ever;  and  she  laid  up  stores  of  pleasant 
memories  which  lasted  her  through  life.  Readers 
of  "  Shawl  Straps  "  will  recognize  the  originals  of 
those  bright  sketches  in  the  series  of  letters  from 

Second  Trip  to  Europe. 

April.  —  ...  On  the  first  day  of  the  month  (fit  day 
for  my  undertaking  I  thought)  May  and  I  went  to  N.  Y. 
to  meet  A.  B.,  with  John  for  escort.  Every  one  very  kind. 
Thirty  gifts,  a  parting  ball  among  our  house- mates,  and 
a  great  cake.  Half-a-dozen  devoted  beings  at  the  station 
to  see  us  off.  But  I  remember  only  Father  and  Mother 
as  they  went  away  the  day  before,  leaving  the  two  am- 
bitious daughters  to  sail  away,  perhaps  forever. 

Marmee  kept  up  bravely,  and  nodded  and  smiled  ;  but 
at  the  corner  I  saw  the  white  handkerchief  go  up  to  the 

Europe.  211 

eyes,  after  being  gayly  waved  to  us.  May  and  I  broke 
down,  and  said,  "  We  won't  go ; '  but  next  day  we  set 
forth,  as  young  birds  will,  and  left  the  nest  empty  for  a 

Sailed  on  the  2d  in  a  gale  of  wind  in  the  French 
steamer  "  Lafayette  "  for  Brest.  Our  adventures  are  told 
in  "Shawl  Straps." 

"  O.  F.  G."  came  out  in  March,  and  sold  well.  Train- 
boy  going  to  N.  Y.  put  it  into  my  lap ;  and  when  I  said 
I  did  n't  care  for  it,  exclaimed  with  surprise,  — 

"  Bully  book,  ma'am  !     Sell  a  lot ;  better  have  it." 

John  told  him  I  wrote  it ;  and  his  chuckle,  stare,  and 
astonished  "  No  !  "  was  great  fun.  On  the  steamer  little 
girls  had  it,  and  came  in  a  party  to  call  on  me,  very  sea- 
sick in  my  berth,  done  up  like  a  mummy. 

Spent  some  charming  weeks  in  Brittany. 

June  and  July.  —  "  O.  F.  G."  was  published  in  Lon- 
don by  Sampson  Low  &  Co.  We  left  Dinan  on  the 
1 5  th,  and  had  a  lovely  trip  through  France  to  Vevay  and 

Talk  of  war  between  France  and  Prussia. 

Much  excitement  at  Vevay.  Refugees  from  Lyons 
come  in.  Isabella  and  Don  Carlos  were  there,  with 
queer  followers. 

September.  —  ...  On  the  3d  came  news  of  the  Em- 
peror's surrender.  Great  wailing  among  the  French  here. 
All  well  at  home.  Books  going  finely ;  no  debts. 

We  decide  to  go  to  Rome  for  the  winter,  as  May  pines 
for  the  artist's  Paradise ;  and  war  will  not  trouble  us  I 

SHIP  "  LAFAYETTE,"  April  9,  1870. 

DEAREST  MARMEE,  —  To-morrow  we  come  to  our  long 
journey's  end  [Brest,  France],  thank  the  Lord.  It  has 
been  a  good  one  on  the  whole,  and  I  have  got  along 

212  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

as  well  as  I  expected.  But  it  is  tiresome  to  be  day  after 
day  doing  nothing ;  for  my  head  will  not  let  me  read. 
May  has  done  well,  and  has  been  very  kind  to  me  and 
good,  and  is  the  life  of  the  table,  I  guess.  I  never  go  up 
to  meals,  for  Marie  takes  such  good  care  of  me  ;  I  lie 
and  peck  all  sorts  of  funny  messes,  and  receive  calls  in  my 
den.  People  seem  to  think  we  are  "  guns,"  and  want  to 
know  us ;  but  as  they  are  not  interesting,  we  are  on  the 
reserve,  and  it  has  a  fine  effect.  About  three  thousand 
miles  away  does  not  seem  possible  in  so  little  while. 
How  do  you  all  get  along,  —  Marmee,  Father,  the  laddies, 
my  lass,  and  dear  old  John?  He  was  so  good  and  kind 
all  the  way  I  had  no  care  or  worry,  but  just  lopped  round 
and  let  him  do  all  the  work.  Bless  the  dear  ! 

I  shall  despatch  a  good  long  letter  as  soon  as  we  ar- 
rive and  have  something  to  tell.  We  send  this  to  ease 
your  mind.  Letters  here  are  not  prepaid,  so  pay  for 
mine  out  of  my  money.  Don't  forget  to  tell  the  post- 
master in  Boston  about  my  letters. 

Bless  you  all,  says  your  Lu. 

MORLAIX,  April  14, 1870. 

DEAREST  MARMEE,  —  Having  got  our  "  poise  "  a  bit  by 
a  day  and  night  on  land,  I  begin  at  once  to  scribble  to 
you,  as  I  mean  to  keep  a  letter  on  hand  all  the  time,  and 
send  them  off  as  fast  as  they  are  done.  We  had  a  twelve 
days'  passage,  owing  to  a  double  screw  which  they  were 
trying  and  which  delayed  us,  though  it  is  safer  than  one. 
The  weather  was  cold  and  rainy,  and  the  sea  rough,  so  I 
only  went  up  once  or  twice,  and  kept  warm  in  my  den 
most  of  the  time.  After  the  first  two  days  I  did  n't  feel 
sick,  except  my  head  as  usual.  I  slept,  ate,  ruminated, 
and  counted  the  hours.  May  poked  about  more,  and  was 
liked  by  all. 

Europe.  2 1 3 

We  got  to  Brest  about  noon  Wednesday.  A.  and  I  got 
our  trunks  through  the  custom-house,  and  after  some 
squabbling  with  the  men,  got  all  aboard  for  Morlaix, 
which  is  a  curious  old  place  worth  seeing.  It  was  a 
lovely  day,  warm  as  our  June,  and  we  had  a  charming 
trip  of  three  hours  through  a  country  already  green  and 
flowery.  We  reached  our  hotel  all  right,  and  after  a 
nice  dinner  had  baths  and  went  to  bed.  May's  room 
being  some  way  from  mine,  she  came  and  bunked  in 
with  me  in  my  little  bed,  and  we  slept. 

To-day  is  lovely,  warm,  and  I  am  sitting  at  an  open 
window  looking  at  the  square,  enjoying  the  queer  sights 
and  sounds ;  for  the  air  resounds  with  the  rattle  of 
wooden  shoes  on  the  stones. 

Market-women  sit  all  about  selling  queer  things,  among 
which  are  snails ;  they  buy  them  by  the  pint,  pick  them 
out  with  a  pin  like  nuts,  and  seem  to  relish  them  mightily. 
We  went  out  this  A.  M.  after  breakfast,  and  took  a  stroll 
about  the  queer  old  town.  May  was  in  heaven,  and 
kept  having  raptures  over  the  gables,  the  turrets  with 
storks  on  them,  the  fountains,  people,  and  churches. 
She  is  now  sketching  the  tower  of  St.  Melanie,  with  a 
crowd  of  small  boys  round  her  enjoying  the  sight  and 
criticising  the  work.  It  don't  seem  very  new  to  me,  but 
I  enjoy  it,  and  feel  pretty  well.  We  are  to  study  French 
every  day  when  we  settle,  and  I  am  to  do  the  mending, 
etc.,  for  A.,  who  is  to  talk  for  us,  and  make  our  bargains. 
Sa  far  we  go  well  together. 

To-morrow  we  go  on  to  Lamballe,  where  we  take  the 
diligence  to  Dinan,  fourteen  miles  farther,  and  there  settle 
for  some  weeks.  I  wish  the  boys  could  see  the  funny 
children  here  in  little  wooden  shoes  like  boats,,  the  girls 
in  blue  cloth  caps,  aprons,  and  shawls,  just  like  the  women, 
and  the  boys  in  funny  hats  and  sheepskin  jackets.  Now 

214  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

I  must  go  and  get  May,  who  can't  speak  a  word  of  French, 
and  has  a  panic  if  any  one  speaks  to  her.  The  beggars 
afflict  her,  and  she  wants  to  give  them  money  on  all  occa- 
sions. This  P.  M.  we  go  for  a  drive  to  see  all  there  is,  as 
neither  A.  nor  I  are  good  walkers  ;  "  adoo  "  till  by  and 
by.  I  wish  I  could  send  you  this  balmy  day. 

DINAN,  Sunday,  April  17,  1870. 

Here  we  are,  all  settled  at  our  first  neat  stopping-place, 
and  are  in  clover,  as  you  will  see  when  I  tell  you  how 
plummy  and  lovely  it  is.  We  left  Morlaix  Friday  at  8  A.  M., 
and  were  so  amazed  at  the  small  bill  presented  us  that 
we  could  n't  praise  the  town  enough.  You  can  judge  of 
the  cheapness  of  things,  when  I  say  that  my  share  of  the 
expenses  from  Brest  here,  including  two  days  at  a  hotel, 
car,  'bus,  and  diligence  fare,  fees,  and  everything,  was  $8. 
The  day  was  divine,  and  we  had  a  fine  little  journey  to 
Lamballe,  where  the  fun  began ;  for  instead  of  a  big  dili- 
gence, we  found  only  a  queer  ramshackle  thing  like  an 
insane  carryall,  with  a  wooden  boot  and  queer  porch  for 
the  driver. 

Our  four  trunks  were  piled  up  behind  and  tied  on  with 
old  ropes,  our  bags  stowed  in  a  wooden  box  on  top,  and 
ourselves  inside  with  a  fat  Frenchman.  The  humpbacked 
driver  "  ya  hooped  "  to  the  horses,  and  away  we  clattered 
at  a  wild  pace,  all  feeling  dead  sure  that  something  would 
happen,  for  the  old  thing  bounded  and  swayed  awfully, 
the  trunks  were  in  danger  of  tumbling  off,  and  to  our  dis- 
may we  soon  discovered  that  the  big  Frenchman  was 
tipsy.  He  gabbled  to  A.  as  only  a  tipsy  person  could, 
quoted  poetry ;  said  he  was  Victor  Hugo's  best  friend,  and 
a  child  of  Nature  ;  that  English  ladies  were  all  divine,  but 
too  cold,  —  for  when  he  pressed  A.'s  hand  she  told  him 
it  was  not  allowed  in  England,  and  he  was  overwhelmed 

Europe.  2 1 5 

with  remorse ;  bowed,  sighed,  rolled  his  eyes,  and  told 
her  that  he  drank  much  ale,  because  it  flew  to  his  head 
and  gave  him  "  commercial  ideas." 

I  never  saw  anything  so  perfectly  absurd  as  it  was,  and 
after  we  got  used  to  it  we  laughed  ourselves  sick  over  the 
lark.  You  ought  to  have  seen  us  and  our  turnout,  tearing 
over  the  road  at  a  breakneck  pace,  pitching,  creaking, 
and  rattling,  the  funny  driver  hooting  at  the  horses,  who 
had  their  tails  done  up  in  chignons,  blue  harness,  and 
strings  of  bells,  the  drunken  man  warbling,  exhorting,  and 
languishing  at  us  all  by  turns,  while  A.  headed  him  off 
with  great  skill.  I  sat,  a  mass  of  English  dignity  and 
coolness,  suffering  alternate  agonies  of  anxiety  and  amuse- 
ment, and  May,  who  tied  her  head  up  in  a  bundle,  looked 
like  a  wooden  image. 

It  was  rich  ;  and  when  we  took  up  first  a  peasant  woman 
in  wooden  shoes  and  fly-away  cap,  and  then  a  red-nosed 
priest  smoking  a  long  pipe,  we  were  a  superb  spectacle. 
In  this  style  we  banged  into  Dinan,  stopped  at  the  gate, 
and  were  dumped  bag  and  baggage  in  the  square.  Find- 
ing Madame  Coste's  man  was  not  here  for  us,  we  hired  a 
man  to  bring  our  trunks  up.  To  our  great  amazement, 
an  oldish  woman,  who  was  greasing  the  wheels  of  a  dili- 
gence, came,  and  catching  up  our  big  trunks,  whipped 
them  into  two  broad  carts,  and  taking  one  trotted  down 
the  street  at  a  fine  pace,  followed  by  the  man  with  the 
other.  That  was  the  finishing  touch  ;  and  we  went  laugh- 
ing after  them  through  the  great  arched  gate  into  the 
quaintest,  prettiest,  most  romantic  town  I  ever  saw.  Nar- 
row streets  with  overhanging  gables,  distracting  roofs, 
windows,  and  porches,  carved  beams,  and  every  sort  of 
richness.  The  strong  old  lady  beat  the  man,  and  finally 
landed  us  close  by  another  old  gate  at  a  charming  house 
fronting  the  south,  overlooking  a  lovely  green  valley,  full 

216  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

of  gardens,  blooming  plum  and  peach  trees,  windmills, 
and  a  ruined  castle,  at  sight  of  which  we  all  skipped. 
Madame  Coste  received  us  with  rapture,  for  A.  brought 
a  letter  from  Mrs.  L.,  who  stayed  here  and  was  the  joy 
of  the  old  lady's  soul.  We  were  in  great  luck,  for  being 
early  in  the  season  she  had  three  rooms  left,  and  we  nabbed 
them  at  once,  —  a  salon  with  old  oak  walls  and  wardrobes, 
blue  damask  furniture,  a  fireplace,  funny  windows,  and 
quaint  furniture.  A  little  room  out  of  it  for  A.,  and  upstairs 
a  larger  room  for  May  and  me,  with  two  beds  draped  in 
green  chintz,  and  carved  big  wardrobe,  etc.,  and  best  of 
all,  a  sunny  window  toward  the  valley.  For  these  rooms 
and  our  board  we  each  pay  $i  a  day,  and  I  call  that 
cheap.  It  would  be  worth  that  to  get  the  fun  and  air 
alone,  for  it  is  like  June,  and  we  sit  about  with  open 
windows,  flowers  in  the  fields,  birds  singing,  and  every- 
thing spring-like. 

We  took  possession  at  once,  and  dressed  for  a  dinner 
at  six.  We  were  then  presented  to  our  fellow-boarders,  — 
Madame  Forney,  a  buxom  widow,  her  son  Gaston,  a  hand- 
some Frenchy  youth  of  twenty-three,  and  her  daughter,  a 
homely  girl  of  twenty,  who  is  to  be  married  here  on  the 
3d  of  May.  After  a  great  bowing  and  scraping  we  had 
a  funny  fish  dinner,  it  being  Good  Friday.  When  they 
found  we  did  n't  speak  French  they  were  "  desolated," 
and  begged  us  to  learn  at  once,  which  we  solemnly  vowed 
to  do.  Gaston  "  knew  English,"  so  May  at  once  began  to 
teach  him  more,  and  the  ice  being  broken  we  got  gay  and 
friendly  at  once.  I  could  understand  them  pretty  well, 
but  can't  talk,  and  A.  told  them  that  I  was  forbidden  to 
say  much  on  account  of  my  throat.  This  will  give  me  a 
chance  to  get  a  fair  start.  May  pegs  away  at  her  gram- 
mar, and  with  that  and  the  elegant  Gaston,  she  will  soon 
begin  to  "  parlez-vous." 

Europe.  2 1 7 

After  dinner  we  were  borne  to  the  great  salon,  where  a 
fire,  lights,  and  a  piano  appeared.  Every  one  sat  round 
and  gabbled  except  the  Alcotts,  who  looked  and  laughed. 
Mademoiselle  Forney  played,  and  then  May  convulsed 
them  by  singing  some  Chants  Ameriques,  which  they 
thought  very  lively  and  droll.  They  were  all  attention 
and  devotion  to  Madame  Coste,  —  a  tall  old  lady  with 
whiskers,  who  kept  embracing  A.  and  beaming  at  us  in 
her  great  content  at  being  friends  of  chere  Madame  L. 
A.  told  them  that  I  was  a  celebrated  authoress,  and  May 
a  very  fine  artist,  and  we  were  beamed  at  more  than  ever. 
Being  tired,  we  turned  in  early,  after  a  jolly  time  in  our 
own  little  salon,  eating  chocolate  and  laying  plans. 

DINAN,  April  20,  1870. 

...  A.  and  I  went  shopping.  A.  got  a  little  bird  to 
enliven  our  parlor,  a  sort  of  sparrow,  gray  with  a  red  head 
and  a  lively  song.  We  named  him  Bernard  du  Guesclin 
(the  hero  of  the  town),  and  call  him  Bernie.  I  got  some 
nice  gloves  for  three  francs  (sixty  cents),  and  a  white  sun- 
umbrella  for  May  (forty  cents).  She  needs  it  when  she 
sketches,  and  there  is  always  a  crowd  of  children  round 
her  to  watch  and  admire  ;  she  gives  one  of  them  a  sou  to 
hold  the  umbrella,  and  so  gets  on  nicely. 

In  the  P.  M.  A.  and  I  went  to  the  little  village  of  Lahou, 
in  the  valley  where  the  ruined  castle  is,  to  a  fair.  It  was 
a  very  picturesque  sight,  for  the  white- capped  women, 
sitting  about  on  the  green  hillside,  looked  like  flowers, 
and  the  blue  blouses  of  the  men  and  wide-brimmed  hats 
added  to  the  effect.  The  little  street  was  lined  with 
booths,  where  they  sold  nuts,  queer  cakes,  hot  sausages, 
and  pancakes,  toys,  etc.  I  got  a  funny  cake,  just  the 
size  and  shape  of  a  deep  pie-dish,  and  a  jack-knife,  for  a 
sou.  We  also  indulged  in  nuts,  and  sat  on  our  camp- 

218  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

stools  in  a  shady  place  and  ate  them  boldly  in  the  public 
mart,  while  enjoying  the  lively  scene.  French  and  Eng- 
lish people  went  by  in  droll  parties,  and  we  coolly  sat  and 
stared  at  them.  May  is  going  to  sketch  the  castle,  so  I 
won't  waste  paper  describing  the  pretty  place  with  the 
ruined  church  full  of  rooks,  the  old  mill  with  the  water- 
wheel  housed  in  vines,  or  the  winding  river,  and  meadows 
full  of  blue  hyacinths  and  rosy  daisies. 

Yesterday,  A.  and  I  had  to  return  the  call  of  Made- 
moiselle M.,  and  as  she  speaks  English  I  got  on  very 
well.  The  stairs  to  her  apartment  were  so  steep  that  we 
held  on  by  a  velvet-covered  rope  as  we  climbed  up.  In 
the  P.  M.  we  had  fun,  for  we  took  two  donkey  carriages 
and  rode  to  the  mineral  spring.  Gaston  was  sick  and 
could  n't  go,  as  we  had  planned,  so  May  drove  herself  in 
one,  and  A.  and  I  in  the  other.  I  wish  the  boys  could 
have  seen  us,  it  was  so  funny.  The  carriages  were  bath- 
chairs  with  a  wee  donkey  harnessed  to  each,  so  small,  so 
neat,  and  looking  so  venerable  with  thin  long  ears  and 
bits  of  feet  that  I  felt  as  if  I  was  driving  my  grandmother. 
May  was  a  very  imposing  sight,  alone  in  her  chair  under 
her  new  umbrella,  in  her  gray  suit,  with  bright  gloves  and 
a  big  whip,  driving  a  gray  rat  who  would  n't  trot  un- 
less pounded  and  banged  and  howled  at  in  the  maddest 
way.  Our  steed  was  bigger,  but  the  most  pig-headed  old 
scamp  you  ever  saw,  for  it  took  two  big  women  to  make 
him  go.  I  drove,  and  A.  thrashed  away  with  all  her 
might,  —  our  joint  efforts  only  producing  occasional  short 
trots  which  enraged  us  dreadfully. 

We  laughed  till  we  were  sick,  it  was  so  very  absurd ; 
while  May  trundled  serenely  along,  enjoying  the  fine  vigws 
regardless  of  her  rat,  who  paced  along  at  his  ease,  wagging 
his  ears  and  meditating. 

We  had  a  nice  trip,  but  did  n't  drink  the  water,  as  iron 

Europe.  219 

don't  suit  us.  Coming  home,  we  passed  the  home  of  the 
donkeys,  and  they  at  once  turned  in,  and  were  with  much 
difficulty  persuaded  to  go  on  by  two  short  girls  in  caps 
and  short  gowns,  who  ran  and  shouted  "  E  !  E  !  va  oui ! ' 
and  punched  sticks  into  the  poor  asses,  rattling  us  over 
the  stones  till  our  eyes  danced  in  our  heads.  We  found 
it  rather  hard  work,  and  A.  means  to  buy  a  horse  and 
straw  pony-chaise,  so  we  can  drive  ourselves  in  peace 
where  we  like.  .  .  . 

A.  is  bargaining  for  a  horse  which  an  Englishman  wishes 
to  sell  for  $50,  including  harness  and  cart.  We  can't  hire 
horses  for  less  than  $2  a  drive,  and  donkeys  are  vile,  so 
it  is  cheaper  to  buy,  and  sell  when  we  go  away,  and  so 
drive  as  much  as  we  like.  A.  knows  about  such  things, 
and  takes  all  the  responsibility.  .  .  .  To-morrow  we  go  on  a 
little  excursion  in  the  steamboat  down  the  river,  and  return 
a  la  donkey  with  the  English  ladies,  who  have  returned 
our  call  and  are  very  friendly. 

Please  forward  this  little  note  in  an  envelope  to  its  ad- 
dress. The  child  wrote  me  a  pretty  letter,  which  N.  sent, 
and  the  pa  said  I  would  n't  answer.  The  child  said,  "  I 
know  she  will,  she  is  so  nice."  So  I  do.  Best  love  to 
every  one.  Don't  go  home  too  soon.  I  shall  write  to 
Fred  and  Jack  next  time.  Good-by. 


To  M.  S. 

.  .  .  They  call  each  other  pet  names  that  convulse  us,  - 
"my  little  pig,"  "my  sweet  hen,"  "my  cabbage,"  and 
"  my  tom-cat."  A  French  lady  with  her  son  and  daugh- 
ter board  here,  and  their  ways  amuse  us  mightily.  The 
girl  is  to  be  married  next  week  to  a  man  whom  she  has 
seen  twice,  and  never  talked  to  but  an  hour  in  her  life. 
She  writes  to  him  what  her  mother  dictates,  and  says  she 
should  be  ashamed  to  love  him  before  they  were  married. 

220  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Her  wedding  clothes  absorb  her  entire  mind,  and  her 
Jules  will  get  a  pretty  doll  when  he  takes  Mademoiselle 
A.  F.  to  wife.  Gaston,  the  son,  puts  on  blase  airs, 
though  only  twenty-two,  and  languishes  at  May,  for 
they  can't  talk,  as  he  does  not  know  English  nor  she 

April  27. 

I  left  my  letter  to  drive  to  a  ruined  chateau,  which  we 
went  all  over,  as  a  part  is  inhabited  by  a  farmer  who  keeps 
his  hog  in  the  great  banqueting  hall,  his  grain  in  the  chapel, 
and  his  hens  in  the  lady's  chamber.  It  was  very  pictu- 
resque ;  the  old  rooms,  with  ivy  coming  in  at  the  windows, 
choking  up  the  well,  and  climbing  up  the  broken  towers. 
The  lady  of  the  chateau  was  starved  to  death  by  her  cruel 
brothers,  and  buried  in  the  moat,  where  her  bones  were 
found  long  afterward,  and  her  ghost  still  haunts  the  place 
they  say.  Here  we  had  cider,  tell  Pa. 

Coming  home  we  saw  a  Dolmen,  one  of  the  Druidical 
remains.  It  stood  in  a  grove  of  old  pines,  —  a  great  post  of 
gray  stone,  some  twenty-five  feet  high,  and  very  big  round. 
It  leaned  as  if  falling,  and  had  queer  holes  in  it.  Brit- 
tany is  full  of  these  relics,  which  no  one  can  explain,  and 
I  was  glad  to  see  the  mysterious  things. 

Yesterday  we  took  a  little  trip  down  the  river  in  a  tiny 
steamer,  going  through  a  lock  and  skimming  along  be- 
tween the  green  banks  of  the  narrow  river  to  Miss  M.'s 
country-house,  where  we  had  new  milk,  and  lay  on  the 
grass  for  an  hour  or  so.  Then  May  and  Miss  M.  walked 
home,  and  A.  and  I  went  in  a  donkey  cart. 

To-day  the  girls  have  gone  to  La  Garaye  with  Gaston 
on  donkeys.  The  weather  has  been  cold  for  a  day  or 
two  with  easterly  winds.  So  I  feel  it  at  once  and  keep 
warm.  It  is  very  unusual  at  this  time,  but  comes,  I  sup- 
pose, because  I  Ve  travelled  hundreds  of  miles  to  get  rid 

Europe.  221 

of  them.  It  won't  last  long,  and  then  we  shall  be  hot 

We  lead  such  quiet,  lazy  lives  I  really  have  nothing 
to  tell. 

Oh,  yes,  the  fiance  of  Mademoiselle  has  arrived,  and 
amuses  us  very  much.  He  is  a  tiny  man  in  uniform,  with 
a  red  face,  big  moustache,  and  blue  eyes.  He  thinks  he 
talks  English,  and  makes  such  very  funny  mistakes.  He 
asked  us  if  we  had  been  to  "  promenade  on  monkeys  " 
meaning  donkeys,  and  called  the  Casino  "  the  establish- 
ment of  dance."  He  addresses  all  his  attentions  to  the 
ma,  and  only  bows  to  his  future  wife,  who  admires  her 
diamonds  and  is  contented.  We  are  going  away  on  the 
day  of  the  wedding,  as  it  is  private. 

The  girls  have  just  returned  in  great  spirits,  for  A.'s 
donkey  kept  lying  down,  and  it  took  all  three  to  get  him 
up  again.  They  sat  in  a  sort  of  chair,  and  looked  very 
funny  with  the  four  little  legs  under  them  and  long  ears 
flopping  before.  I  shall  go  to  Garaye  some  fine  day,  and 
will  tell  you  about  it. 

Adieu,  love  to  all.         Yours,  Lu. 

DINAN,  May  6,  1870. 

DEAR  PEOPLE,  —  I  have  just  got  a  fat  letter  full  of 
notices  from  N.,  —  all  good,  and  news  generally  pleasant. 

The  great  event  of  the  season  is  over,  and  Miss  F.  is 
Mrs.  C.  It  was  a  funny  scene,  for  they  had  a  breakfast 
the  day  before,  then  on  Tuesday  the  wedding.  We  did 
not  go,  as  the  church  is  like  a  tomb,  but  we  saw  the 
bride,  in  white  satin,  pearls,  orange  flowers,  and  lace, 
very  pretty,  and  like  other  brides.  Her  ma,  in  purple 
moire  and  black  lace,  was  fine  to  see ;  and  the  little 
groom,  in  full  regimentals,  with  a  sabre  as  large  as  him- 
self, was  very  funny.  A  lot  of  people  came  in  carriages 

222  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

to  escort  them  to  church ;  and  our  little  square  was  full 
of  queer  turnouts,  smartly  dressed  people,  and  a  great 
bustle.  There  was  some  mistake  about  the  bride's  car- 
riage, and  it  did  not  drive  up  in  time,  so  she  stood  on 
the  steps  till  it  came  as  near  as  it  could,  and  then  she 
trotted  out  to  it  on  Gaston's  arm,  with  her  maid  holding 
up  her  satin  train.  Uncle,  ma,  bride,  and  brother  drove 
off,  but  the  groom's  carriage  was  delayed  by  the  breaking 
of  a  trace,  and  there  he  sat,  with  his  fat  pa  and  ma,  after 
every  one  had  gone,  fuming,  and  poking  his  little  cocked 
hat  out  of  the  window,  while  the  man  mended  the  har- 
ness, and  every  one  looked  on  with  breathless  interest. 

We  went  to  D with  Coste  in  the  p.  M.,  and  had  a 

fine  view  of  the   sea  and   San  Malo.      We  did  n't  like 

D ,  and  won't  go  there.     When  we  got  home  about 

eight  o'clock  the  wedding  dinner  was  in  full  blast,  and  I 
caught  a  glimpse  of  a  happy  pair  at  the  head  of  the 
table,  surrounded  by  a  lot  of  rigged-up  ladies  and  fine 
men,  all  gabbing  and  gabbling  as  only  French  folk  can. 
The  couple  are  still  here,  resting  and  getting  acquainted 
before  they  go  to  Lamballe  for  a  week  of  festivity.  A 
church  wedding  is  a  very  funny  thing,  and  I  wish  you 
could  have  seen  it. 

The  dry  season  continues,  and  the  people  have  pro- 
cessions and  masses  to  pray  for  rain.  One  short  flurry 
of  hail  is  all  we  have  had,  and  the  cold  winds  still  blow. 
When  our  month  is  out  we  shall  go  somewhere  near  the 
sea  if  it  is  at  all  warm.  Nothing  could  be  kinder  than 
dear  old  Coste,  and  I  could  n't  be  in  a  better  place  to  be 
poorly  in  than  this ;  she  coddles  me  like  a  mother,  and 
is  so  grieved  that  I  don't  get  better. 

Send  Ma  a  bit  of  the  gorse  flower  with  which  the  fields 
are  now  yellow. 

Yours,  Lu. 

Europe.  223 

DINAN,  May  13,  1870. 

DEAREST  FOLKS, — We  drove  to  Guildo  yesterday  to 
see  if  we  should  like  it  for  July.  It  is  a  queer  little  town 
on  the  seashore,  with  ruins  near  by,  bright  houses,  and 
lots  of  boats.  Rooms  a  franc  a  day,  and  food  very 
cheap.  The  man  of  the  house  —  a  big,  brown,  Peggotty 
sailor  —  has  a  sloop,  and  promised  the  girls  as  much 
sailing  as  they  liked.  We  may  go,  but  our  plans  are 
very  vague,  and  one  day  we  say  we  will  go  to  one  place 
and  the  next  to  another,  and  shall  probably  end  by  stay- 
ing where  we  are. 

Yours,  Lu. 

DINAN,  May  17,  1870. 

DEAREST  PEOPLE,  —  We  run  out  and  do  errands  in  the 
cool  before  breakfast  at  ten,  then  we  write,  sew,  and 
read,  and  look  round,  till  four,  when  we  go  to  drive. 
May  and  I  in  the  cherry  bounce  with  M.  Harmon  to 
drive  us,  and  A.  on  horseback  ;  for,  after  endless  fuss,  she 
has  at  last  evoked  a  horse  out  of  chaos,  and  comes  gal- 
loping gayly  after  us  as  we  drive  about  the  lovely  roads 
with  the  gallant  hotel-keeper,  Adolph  Harmon.  We  are 
getting  satiated  with  ruins  and  chateaux,  and  plan  a  trip 
by  water  to  Nantes ;  for  the  way  they  do  it  is  to  hire  a 
big  boat  and  be  towed  by  a  horse  in  the  most  luxurious 

To  Anna. 

DINAN,  May  25,  1870. 

DEAR  BETSEY/  —  All  well.  We  have  also  had  fun 
about  the  queer  food,  as  we  don't  like  brains,  liver,  etc. 
A.  does ;  and  when  we  eat  some  mess,  not  knowing  what 

1  Betsey  Prig  was  a  pet  name  for  her  sister,  as  she  herself  was 
Sairey  Gamp. 

224  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

it  is,  and  find  it  is  sheep's  tails  or  eels,  she  exults  over 
us,  and  writes  poems. 

I  wander  dreadfully,  but  the  girls  are  racketing,  birdie 
singing  like  mad,  and  nine  horses  neighing  to  one  an- 
other in  the  place,  so  my  ideas  do  not  flow  as  clearly 
as  they  should.  Besides,  I  expect  Gaston  to  come  in 
every  minute  to  show  us  his  rig ;  for  he  is  going  to  a 
picnic  in  Breton  costume,  —  a  very  French  affair,  for 
the  party  are  to  march  two  and  two,  with  fiddlers  in 
front,  and  donkeys  bearing  the  feast  in  the  rear.  Such 
larks  ! 

Yesterday  we  had  a  funny  time.  We  went  to  drive  in 
a  basket  chair,  very  fine,  with  a  perch  behind  and  a 
smart  harness ;  but  most  of  the  horses  here  are  stallions, 
and  act  like  time.  Ours  went  very  well  at  first,  but  in 
the  town  took  to  cutting  up,  and  suddenly  pounced  on 
to  a  pile  of  brush,  and  stuck  his  head  into  a  bake-shop. 
We  tried  to  get  him  out,  but  he  only  danced  and  neighed, 
and  all  the  horses  in  town  seemed  to  reply.  A  man 
came  and  led  him  on  a  bit,  but  he  did  n't  mean  to  go, 
and  whisked  over  to  the  other  side,  where  he  tangled  us 
and  himself  up  with  a  long  string  of  team  horses.  I  flew 
out  and  May  soon  followed.  A.  was  driving,  and  kept  in 
while  the  man  led  the  "critter"  back  to  the  stable.  I 
declined  my  drive  with  the  insane  beast,  and  so  we  left 
him  and  bundled  home  in  the  most  ignominious  manner. 
All  the  animals  are  very  queer  here,  and,  unlike  ours, 
excessively  big. 

We  went  to  a  ruin  one  day,  and  were  about  to  explore 
the  castle,  when  a  sow,  with  her  family  of  twelve,  charged 
through  the  gateway  at  us  so  fiercely  that  we  fled  in  dis- 
may ;  for  pigs  are  not  nice  when  they  attack,  as  we  don't 
know  where  to  bone  'em,  and  I  saw  a  woman  one  day 
whose  nose  had  been  bitten  off  by  an  angry  pig.  I 

Europe.  225 

flew  over  a  hedge ;  May  tried  to  follow.  I  pulled  her 
over  head  first,  and  we  tumbled  into  the  tower  like  a 
routed  garrison.  It  was  n't  a  nice  ruin,  but  we  were 
bound  to  see  it,  having  suffered  so  much.  And  we'  did 
see  it,  in  spite  of  the  pigs,  who  waylaid  us  on  all  sides, 
and  squealed  in  triumph  when  we  left,  —  dirty,  torn,  and 
tired.  The  ugly  things  wander  at  their  own  sweet  will, 
and  are  tall,  round-backed,  thin  wretches,  who  run  like 
race  horses,  and  are  no  respecters  of  persons. 

Sunday  was  a  great  day  here,  for  the  children  were 
confirmed.  It  was  a  pretty  sight  to  see  the  long  pro- 
cession of  little  girls,  in  white  gowns  and  veils,  winding 
through  the  flowery  garden  and  the  antique  square,  into 
the  old  church,  with  their  happy  mothers  following,  and 
the  boys  in  their  church  robes  singing  as  they  went.  The 
old  priest  was  too  ill  to  perform  the  service,  but  the 
young  one  who  did  announced  afterward  that  if  the  chil- 
dren would  pass  the  house  the  old  man  would  bless 
them  from  his  bed.  So  all  marched  away  down  the 
street,  with  crosses  and  candles,  and  it  was  very  touching 
to  see  the  feeble  old  man  stretch  out  his  hands  above 
them  as  the  little  white  birds  passed  by  with  bended 
heads,  while  the  fresh,  boyish  voices  chanted  the  re- 
sponses. This  old  priest  is  a  very  interesting  man,  for 
he  is  a  regular  saint,  helping  every  one,  keeping  his 
house  as  a  refuge  for  poor  and  old  priests,  settling  quarrels 
among  the  people,  and  watching  over  the  young  people 
as  if  they  were  his  own.  I  shall  put  him  in  a  story. 

Voila  !  Gaston  has  just  come  in,  rigged  in  a  white 
embroidered  jacket,  with  the  Dinan  coat-of-arms  worked 
in  scarlet  and  yellow  silk  on  it  fore  and  aft ;  a  funny  hat, 
with  streamers,  and  a  belt,  with  a  knife,  horn,  etc.  He 
is  handsome,  and  as  fond  of  finery  as  a  girl.  I  '11  send 
you  his  picture  next  time,  and  one  of  Dinan. 

226  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

You  will  see  that  Marmee  has  all  she  needs,  and  a 
girl,  and  as  much  money  as  she  wants  for  being  cosey  and 
comfortable.  S.  E.  S.  will  let  her  have  all  she  wants,  and 
mak'e  her  take  it.  I  'm  sorry  the  chapel  $100  did  n't  come, 
for  she  likes  to  feel  that  she  has  some  of  her  very  own. 

I  have  written  to  Conway  and  Mrs.  Taylor,  so  that  if 
we  decide  to  take  a  run  to  England  before  we  go  to 
Italy,  the  way  will  be  open.  .  .  . 

But  Dinan  is  so  healthy  and  cosey,  that  we  shall  linger 
till  the  heat  makes  us  long  for  the  sea.  Roses,  cherries, 
strawberries,  and  early  vegetables  are  come,  and  we  are 
in  clover.  Dear  old  Coste  broods  over  us  like  a  motherly 
hen,  and  just  now  desired  me  to  give  her  affectionate 
and  respectful  compliments  to  my  bonne  mere. 

Now  I  'm  spun  out ;  so  adieu,  my  darling  Nan. 
Write  often,  and  I  will  keep  sending,  —  trusting  that 
you  will  get  them  in  time. 

Kisses  all  round. 

Yours,  Lu. 

DINAN,  May  30,  1870. 

DEAR  FOLKS,  —  May  has  made  up  such  a  big  letter 
that  I  will  only  add  a  line  to  give  you  the  last  news  of 
the  health  of  her  Highness  Princess  Louisa.  She  is  such 
a  public  character  nowadays  that  even  her  bones  are  not 
her  own,  and  her  wails  of  woe  cannot  be  kept  from  the 
long  ears  of  the  world,  —  old  donkey  as  it  is  ! 

Dr.  Kane,  who  was  army  surgeon  in  India,  and  doctor 
in  England  for  forty  years,  says  my  leg  trouble  and  many 
of  my  other  woes  come  from  the  calomel  they  gave  me 
in  Washington.  He  has  been  through  the  same  thing 
with  an  Indian  jungle  fever,  and  has  never  got  the 
calomel  out  of  him.  ...  I  don't  know  anything  about 
it,  only  my  leg  is  the  curse  of  my  life.  But  I  think 

Europe.  227 

Dr.  K.'s  iodine  of  potash  will  cure  it  in  the  end,  as  it  did 
his  arms,  after  taking  it  for  three  months.  It  is  simple, 
pleasant,  and  seems  to  do  something  to  the  bones  that  gives 
them  ease  ;  so  I  shall  sip  away  and  give  it  a  good  trial. 

We  are  now  revelling  in  big  strawberries,  green  peas, 
early  potatoes,  and  other  nice  things,  on  which  we  shall 
grow  fat  as  pigs. 

We  are  beginning  to  think  of  a  trip  into  Normandy, 
where  the  H.'s  are. 

Love  to  all.     By-by !  Your  loving  Lu. 

No  news  except  through  N.,  who  yesterday  sent  me  a 
nice  letter  with  July  account  of  $6,212,  —  a  neat  little 
sum  for  "  the  Alcotts,  who  can't  make  money  ! '  With 
$10,000  well  invested,  and  more  coming  in  all  the  time, 
I  think  we  may  venture  to  enjoy  ourselves,  after  the  hard 
times  we  have  all  had. 

The  cream  of  the  joke  is,  that  we  made  our  own 
money  ourselves,  and  no  one  gave  us  a  blessed  penny. 
That  does  soothe  my  rumpled  soul  so  much  that  the 
glory  is  not  worth  thinking  of. 

To  Anna, 

DINAN,  June  4,  1870. 

•  •••••••• 

The  present  excitement  is  the  wood  which  Coste  is 
having  put  in.  Loads  keep  coming  in  queer,  heavy  carts 
drawn  by  four  horses  each,  and  two  men  to  work  the 
machine.  Two  men  chop  the  great  oak  stumps,  and 
a  woman  puts  it  in  down  cellar  by  the  armful.  The 
men  get  two  francs  a  day,  —  forty  cents  !  (Would  n't 
our  $3  a  day  workmen  howl  at  that  sort  of  wages  !) 
When  several  carts  arrive  at  once  the  place  is  a  lively 
scene.  Just  now  there  were  three  carts  and  twelve 
horses,  and  eight  were  all  up  in  a  snarl,  while  half-a- 

228  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

dozen  ladies  stood  at  their  doors  and  gave  advice.  One 
had  a  half-dressed  baby  in  her  arms ;  one  a  lettuce  she 
was  washing;  another  her  distaff;  and  a  fourth  her  little 
bowl  of  soup,  which  she  ate  at  on  the  sidewalk,  in  the 
intervals  gesticulating  so  frantically  that  her  sabots  rat- 
tled on  the  stones.  The  horses  had  a  free  fight,  and  the 
man  could  n't  seem  to  manage  one  big  one,  who  romped 
about  like  a  wild  elephant,  till  the  lady  with  the  baby 
suddenly  set  the  half-naked  cherub  on  the  doorsteps, 
charged  in  among  the  rampant  beasts,  and,  by  some 
magic  howl  or  jerk,  brought  the  bad  horse  to  order, 
when  she  quietly  returned  to  her  baby,  who  had  sat  pla- 
cidly eating  dirt,  and  with  a  calm  Voilci,  messieurs, 
she  skipped  little  Jean  into  his  shirt,  and  the  men  sat 
down  to  smoke. 

We  are  now  in  great  excitement  over  Gaston,  who  has 
lately  become  so  very  amiable  that  we  don't  know  him. 
We  began  by  letting  the  spoiled  child  severely  alone. 
This  treatment  worked  well,  and  now  he  offers  us  things 
at  table,  bows  when  we  enter,  and  to-day  presented  us 
with  green  tulips,  violet  shrubs,  and  queer  medals  all 
round.  We  have  let  little  bits  of  news  leak  out  about  us, 
and  they  think  we  are  dukes  and  duchesses  in  Amer- 
ique,  and  pronounce  us  tres  spirituelles ;  tres  char- 
mantes ;  tres  seductives  femmes.  We  laugh  in  pri- 
vate, and  are  used  to  having  the  entire  company  rise 
when  we  enter,  and  embrace  us  with  ardor,  listen  with 
uplifted  hands  and  shrieks  of  man  Dieu  !  grand  del ! 
etc.,  to  all  remarks,  and  point  us  out  in  public  as  les 
dames  Americaines.  Such  is  fame  ! 

An  English  lady  arrived  to-day — a  Miss  B. — dressed, 
with  English  taste,  in  a  little  green  skirt,  pink  calico  waist, 
a  large  crumpled  frill,  her  hair  in  a  tight  knot,  one  front 
tooth  sticking  straight  out,  and  a  golden  oriole  in  a  large 

Europe.  229 

cage.  She  is  about  forty,  very  meek  and  pursy,  and  the 
old  ladies  have  been  sitting  in  a  heap  since  breakfast, 
talking  like  mad. 

May  has  "  sack '  on  the  brain  just  now,  and  A.  has 
"  hose  "  on  the  brain  ;  and  at  this  moment  they  are  both 
gabbling  wildly,  one  saying,  "  I  shall  trim  it  with  blue 
and  have  it  pinked  ! '  the  other  shrieking,  "  My  hose 
must  be  red,  with  little  dragons  in  black  all  over  it,  like 
small-pox  !  "  and  the  bird  flies  to  her  upper  perch  in  dis- 
may at  the  riot,  while  I  sit  and  laugh,  with  an  occasional 
duennaish,  "  Young  ladies,  less  noise  if  you  please  ! ' 

It  rained  last  eve,  and  we  are  waiting  for  it  to  dry 
before  going  out  in  the  donkey  chaise  to  buy  a  warm 
bun  and  some  strawberries  for  lunch,  to  be  eaten  as  we 
parade  the  town  and  drink  ale  at  intervals. 

•  •••••••• 

Do  tell  me  how  things  are  about  my  pictures.  I  see 
they  are  advertised,  and  if  they  sell  I  want  my  share 
of  the  profits.  Send  me  one  of  those  that  are  in  the 
market,  after  taking  off  the  heavy  card. 

Love  to  all,  and  the  best  of  luck. 

Ever  your  Lu. 

HOTEL  D'UNIVERSE,  TOURS,  June  17,  1870. 

DEAREST  PEOPLE,  —  Our  wanderings  have  begun  again, 
and  here  we  are  in  this  fine  old  city  in  a  cosey  hotel,  as 
independent  and  happy  as  three  old  girls  can  be.  We 
left  Dinan  Wednesday  at  7  A.  M.  Gaston  got  up  to  see  us 
off,  —  a  most  unusual  and  unexpected  honor ;  also  Mrs.  B. 
and  all  the  old  ladies,  whom  we  left  dissolved  in  tears. 

We  had  a  lovely  sail  down  the  river  to  St.  Malo, 
where  we  breakfasted  at  Hotel  Franklin,  a  quaint  old 
house  in  a  flowery  corner.  At  twelve  we  went  by  rail  to 
Le  Mans,  —  a  long  trip,  —  and  arrived  at  6  P.  M.  so  tired 

230  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

that  we  went  to  bed  in  the  moonlight  while  a  band 
played  in  the  square  before  the  hotel,  and  the  sidewalks 
before  the  cafe  were  full  of  people  taking  ices  and  coffee 
round  little  tables. 

Next  morning  we  went  to  see  the  famous  cathedral 
and  had  raptures,  for  it  is  like  a  dream  in  stone.  Pure 
Gothic  of  the  twelfth  century,  with  the  tomb  of  Berenga- 
ria,  wife  of  Cceur  de  Leon,  stained  glass  of  the  richest 
kind,  dim  old  chapels  with  lamps  burning,  a  gorgeous 
high  altar  all  crimson  and  gold  and  carmine,  and  several 
organs.  Anything  more  lovely  and  divine  I  never  saw, 
for  the  arches,  so  light  and  graceful,  seemed  to  soar  up 
one  above  the  other  like  the  natural  curves  of  trees  or  the 
spray  of  a  great  fountain.  We  spent  a  long  time  here 
and  I  sat  above  in  the  quaint  old  chapel  with  my  eyes 
and  heart  full,  and  prayed  a  little  prayer  for  my  family. 
Old  women  and  men  knelt  about  in  corners  telling  their 
beads,  and  the  priest  was  quietly  saying  his  prayers  at 
the  altar.  Outside  it  was  a  pile  of  gray  stone,  with  towers 
and  airy  pinnacles  full  of  carved  saints  and  busy  rooks. 
I  don't  think  we  shall  see  anything  finer  anywhere.  It 
was  very  hot  for  there  had  been  no  rain  for  four  months, 
so  we  desired  to  start  for  town  at  5  and  get  in  about  8 
as  it  is  light  then. 

We  had  a  pleasant  trip  in  the  cool  of  the  day,  and 
found  Tours  a  great  city,  like  Paris  on  a  small  scale. 
Our  hotel  is  on  the  boulevard,  and  the  trees,  fountains, 
and  fine  carriages  make  our  windows  very  tempting.  We 
popped  into  bed  early ;  and  my  bones  are  so  much  better 
that  I  slept  without  any  opium  or  anything,  —  a  feat  I 
have  not  performed  for  some  time. 

This  morning  we  had  coffee  and  rolls  in  bed,  then  as 
it  was  a  fine  cool  day  we  dressed  up  clean  and  nice  and 
went  out  for  a  walk.  At  the  post-office  we  found  your 

Europe.  231 

letters  of  May  31,  one  from  Nan  and  Ma,  and  one  from 
L.  We  were  exalted,  and  went  into  the  garden  and 
read  them  in  bliss,  with  the  grand  cathedral  right  before 
us.  Cathedral  St.  Martin,  twelfth  century,  with  tomb  of 
Charles  XIII. 's  children,  the  armor  of  Saint  Louis,  fine 
pictures  of  Saint  Martin,  his  cloak,  etc.  May  will  tell  you 
about  it  and  I  shall  put  in  a  photograph,  if  I  can  find 
one.  We  are  now  —  12  o'clock  —  in  our  pleasant  room 
all  round  the  table  writing  letters  and  resting  for  another 
trip  by  and  by. 

The  Fete  Dieu  is  on  Monday,  —  very  splendid,  —  and 
we  shall  then  see  the  cathedral  in  its  glory.  To-day  a  few 
hundred  children  were  having  their  first  communion 
there,  girls  all  in  white,  with  scarlet  boys,  crosses,  candles, 
music,  priests,  etc.  Get  a  Murray,  and  on  the  map  of 
France  follow  us  to  Geneva,  via  St.  Malo,  Le  Mans, 
Tours,  Amboise  and  Blois,  Orleans,  Nevers,  Antrim. 
We  may  go  to  the  Vosges  instead  of  the  Jura  if  Mrs.  H. 
can  go,  as  A.  wants  to  see  her  again.  But  we  head  for 
the  Alps  of  some  sort  and  will  report  progress  as  we  go. 

My  money  holds  out  well  so  far,  as  we  go  second  class. 

To  her  Father. 

TOURS,  June  20,  1870. 

DEAR  PAPA,  —  Before  we  go  on  to  fresh  "  chateaux 
and  churches  new,"  I  must  tell  you  about  the  sights  here 
in  this  pleasant,  clean,  handsome  old  city.  May  has 
done  the  church  for  you,  and  I  send  a  photograph  to 
give  some  idea  of  it.  The  inside  is  very  beautiful ;  and 
we  go  at  sunset  to  see  the  red  light  make  the  gray  walls 
lovely  outside  and  the  shadows  steal  from  chapel  to 
chapel  inside,  filling  the  great  church  with  what  is  really 
"  a  dim  religious  gloom."  We  wandered  about  it  the 

232  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

other  evening  till  moonrise,  and  it  was  very  interesting 
to  see  the  people  scattered  here  and  there  at  their 
prayers  ;  some  kneeling  before  Saint  Martin's  shrine,  some 
in  a  flowery  little  nook  dedicated  to  the  infant  Christ, 
and  one,  a  dark  corner  with  a  single  candle  lighting  up 
a  fine  picture  of  the  Mater  Dolorosa,  where  a  widow  all 
in  her  weeds  sat  alone,  crying  and  praying.  In  another 
a  sick  old  man  sat,  while  his  old  wife  knelt  by  him  pray- 
ing with  all  her  might  to  Saint  Gratien  (the  patron  saint  of 
the  church)  for  her  dear  old  invalid.  Nuns  and  priests 
glided  about,  and  it  was  all  very  poetical  and  fine,  till  I 
came  to  an  imposing  priest  in  a  first  class  chapel  who  was 
taking  snuff  and  gaping,  instead  of  piously  praying. 

The  Fete  Dieu  was  yesterday,  and  I  went  out  to  see 
the  procession.  The  streets  were  hung  with  old  tapestry, 
and  sheets  covered  with  flowers.  Crosses,  crowns,  and 
bouquets  were  suspended  from  house  to  house,  and  as 
the  procession  approached,  women  ran  out  and  scattered 
green  boughs  and  rose-leaves  before  the  train.  A  fine 
band  and  a  lot  of  red  soldiers  came  first,  then  the  differ- 
ent saints  on  banners,  carried  by  girls,  and  followed  by 
long  trains  of  girls  bearing  the  different  emblems.  Saint 
Agnes  and  her  lamb  was  followed  by  a  flock  of  pretty 
young  children  all  in  white,  carrying  tall  white  lilies  that 
filled  the  air  with  their  fragrance. 

"  Mary  our  Mother '  was  followed  by  orphans  with 
black  ribbons  crossed  on  their  breasts.  Saint  Martin  led 
the  charity  boys  in  their  gray  suits,  etc.  The  Host  under 
a  golden  canopy  was  borne  by  priests  in  gorgeous  rig, 
and  every  one  knelt  as  it  passed  with  censors  swinging, 
candles  burning,  boys  chanting,  and  flowers  dropping 
from  the  windows.  A  pretty  young  lady  ran  out  and  set 
her  baby  in  a  pile  of  green  leaves  in  the  middle  of  the 
street  before  the  Host,  and  it  passed  over  the  little  thing 

Europe.  233 

who  sat  placidly  staring  at  the  show  and  admiring  its 
blue  shoes.  I  suppose  it  is  a  saved  and  sacred  baby 

It  was  a  fine  pageant  and  quite  touching,  some  of  it ; 
but  as  usual,  I  saw  something  funny  to  spoil  the  so- 
lemnity. A  very  fat  and  fine  priest,  who  walked  with 
his  eyes  upon  his  book  and  sung  like  a  pious  bumble- 
bee, suddenly  destroyed  the  effect  by  rapping  a  boy  over 
the  head  with  his  gold  prayer-book,  as  the  black  sheep 
strayed  a  little  from  the  flock.  I  thought  the  old  saint 
swore  also. 

The  procession  went  from  the  cathedral  to  Charle- 
magne's Tower,  an  old,  old  relic,  all  that  is  left  of  the 
famous  church  which  once  covered  a  great  square.  We 
went  to  see  it,  and  the  stones  looked  as  if  they  were 
able  to  tell  wonderful  tales  of  the  scenes  they  had 
witnessed  all  these  hundreds  of  years.  I  think  the  "  Re- 
miniscences of  a  Rook'  would  be  a  good  story,  for 
these  old  towers  are  full  of  them,  and  they  are  long- 
lived  birds. 

Tuesday,  June  21,  1870. 

Here  we  go  again  !  now  in  an  utterly  different  scene 
from  Tours.  We  left  at  5  P.  M.,  and  in  half  an  hour 
were  here  on  the  banks  of  the  Loire  in  a  queer  little 
inn  where  we  are  considered  duchesses  at  least,  owing  to 
our  big  trunks  and  A.'s  good  French.  I  am  the  Ma- 
dame, May  Mam'selle,  and  A.  the  companion. 

Last  evening  being  lovely,  we  went  after  dinner  up  to 
the  castle  where  Charles  VIII.  was  born  in  1470.  The 
Arab  chief,  Abd-el-Kader,  and  family  were  kept  prisoners 
here,  and  in  the  old  garden  is  a  tomb  with  the  crescent 
over  it  where  some  of  them  were  buried.  May  was  told 
about  the  terrace  where  the  Huguenots  hung  thick  and 

234  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

the  court  enjoyed  the  sight  till  the  Loire,  choked  up  with 
dead  bodies,  forced  them  to  leave.  We  saw  the  little 
low  door  where  Anne  of  Brittany's  first  husband  Charles 
VIII.  "  bumped  his  head  "  and  killed  himself,  as  he  was 
running  through  to  play  bowls  with  his  wife. 

It  has  been  modernized  and  is  now  being  restored  as 
in  old  times,  so  the  interior  was  all  in  a  toss.  But  we 
went  down  the  winding  road  inside  the  tower,  up  which 
the  knights  and  ladies  used  to  ride.  Father  would 
have  enjoyed  the  pleached  walks,  for  they  are  cut  so 
that  looking  down  on  them,  it  is  like  a  green  floor,  and 
looking  up  it  is  a  thick  green  wall.  There  also  Margaret 
of  Anjou  and  her  son  were  reconciled  to  Warwick.  Read 
Murray,  I  beg,  and  see  all  about  it.  We  sat  in  the  twi- 
light on  the  terrace  and  saw  what  Fred  would  have  liked, 
a  little  naked  boy  ride  into  the  river  on  one  horse  after 
another,  and  swim  them  round  in  the  deep  water  till 
they  were  all  clean  and  cool. 

This  morning  at  7  o'clock  we  drove  to  Chenonceaux, 
the  chateau  given  by  Henry  II.  to  Diane  de  Poictiers. 
It  was  a  lovely  day,  and  we  went  rolling  along  through  the 
most  fruitful  country  I  ever  saw.  Acre  on  acre  of  yellow 
grain,  vineyards  miles  long,  gardens  and  orchards  full  of 
roses  and  cherries.  The  Cher  is  a  fine  river  winding 
through  the  meadows,  where  haymakers  were  at  work 
and  fat  cattle  feeding.  It  was  a  very  happy  hour,  and 
the  best  thing  I  saw  was  May's  rapturous  face  opposite,  as 
she  sat  silently  enjoying  everything,  too  happy  to  talk. 

The  chateau  built  over  the  water  is  very  interesting ; 
Catherine  de  Medicis  took  it  away  from  Diane  when  the 
king  died,  and  her  room  is  still  seen  as  she  left  it ;  also 
a  picture  of  Diane,  a  tall  simpering  woman  in  a  tunic, 
with  hounds,  stag,  cupids,  and  other  rubbish  round  her. 
The  gallery  of  pictures  was  fine ;  for  here  were  old,  old 

Europe.  235 

portraits  and  bas-reliefs,  Agnes  Sorel,  Montaigne,  Rabel- 
ais, many  kings  and  queens,  and  among  them  Lafay- 
ette and  dear  old  Ben  Franklin. 

There  is  a  little  theatre  where  Rousseau's  plays  were 
acted.  This  place  at  the  time  of  the  Revolution  be- 
longed to  the  grandmother  of  George  Sand,  and  she  was 
so  much  respected  that  no  harm  was  done  to  it.  So 
three  cheers  for  Madame  Dupin  !  Among  the  pictures  were 
Ninon  D'Enclos,  and  Madame  Sevigne"  holding  a  picture 
of  her  beloved  daughter.  The  Guides,  etc.  I  don't  care 
for  so  much  as  they  were  all  grimy  and  convulsive,  and 
I  prefer  pictures  of  people  who  really  lived,  to  these 
impossible  Venuses  and  repulsive  saints,  —  bad  taste,  but 
I  can't  help  it.  The  walls  were  hung  with  stamped 
leather  and  tapestry,  carved  chairs  in  which  queens  had 
sat,  tables  at  which  kings  had  eaten,  books  they  had 
read,  and  glasses  that  had  reflected  their  faces  were  all 
about,  and  I  just  revelled.  The  old  kitchen  had  a  fire- 
place quaint  enough  to  suit  Pa,  with  immense  turn-spits, 
cranes,  andirons,  etc.  The  chapel,  balcony,  avenue, 
draw-bridge,  and  all  the  other  pleasing  bits  were  enjoyed, 
and  I  stole  a  sprig  of  jasmine  from  the  terrace  which  I 
shall  press  for  Mamma.  Pray  take  extra  care  of  the 
photographs,  for  if  lost,  we  cannot  replace  them,  and  I 
want  to  make  a  fine  album  of  pictures  with  flowers  and 
descriptions  after  I  get  home.  .  .  .  But  all  goes  well  and 
we  enjoy  much  every  day.  Love  to  all,  Lu. 

To  her  Mother. 

BLOIS,  June  24,  1870. 

DEAR  MARMEE,  —  On  this,  Lizzie's  and  Johnny's  birth- 
day, I  '11  begin  a  letter  to  you.  We  found  at  the  Poste 
Restante  here  two  "  Moods  "  and  a  paper  for  me,  one 

236  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

book  from  L.,  and  one  from  N.  I  think  the  pictures 
horrid,  and  sent  them  floating  down  the  Loire  as  soon  as 
possible,  and  put  one  book  at  the  bottom  of  my  trunk 
and  left  the  other  where  no  one  will  find  it.  I  could  n't 
read  the  story,  and  try  to  forget  that  I  ever  wrote  it. 

Blois  is  a  noisy,  dusty,  soldierly  city  with  nothing  to 
admire  but  the  river,  nearly  dry  now  with  this  four 
months'  drought,  and  the  old  castle  where  Francis  I., 
Louis  XII.,  Catherine  de  Medicis,  and  other  great  folks 
lived.  It  has  been  very  splendidly  restored  by  the  Gov- 
ernment, and  the  ceilings  are  made  with  beams  blazoned 
with  coats-of-arms,  the  walls  hung  with  cameos,  painted 
with  the  same  design  as  the  stamped  leather  in  old 
times,  and  the  floors  inlaid  with  colored  tiles.  Brown 
and  gold,  scarlet,  blue,  and  silver,  quaint  dragons  and 
flowers,  porcupines  and  salamanders,  crowns  and  letters, 
glittered  everywhere.  We  saw  the  guard-room  and  the 
very  chimney  where  the  Due  de  Guise  was  leaning  when 
the  king  Henry  III.  sent  for  him ;  the  little  door  where 
the  king's  gentlemen  fell  upon  and  stabbed  him  with 
forty  wounds ;  the  cabinet  where  the  king  and  his 
mother  plotted  the  deed ;  the  chapel  where  the  monks 
prayed  for  success ;  and  the  great  hall  where  the  body 
lay  covered  with  a  cloak  till  the  king  came  and  looked 
at  it  and  kicked  his  dead  enemy,  saying,  "  I-  did  not 
think  he  was  so  tall."  We  also  saw  the  cell  where  the 
brother  of  the  duke  was  murdered  the  next  day,  and  the 
attic  entire  where  their  bodies  were  burnt,  after  which 
the  ashes  were  thrown  into  the  Loire  by  order  of  the 
king ;  .the  window  out  of  which  Marie  de  Medicis  low- 
ered herself  when  her  son  Louis  XIII.  imprisoned  her 
there ;  the  recess  where  Catherine  de  Medicis  died ;  and 
many  other  interesting  places.  What  a  set  of  rascals 
these  old  kings  and  queens  were  ! 

Europe.  237 


The  Salle  des  Etats  was  very  gorgeous,  and  here  in  a 
week  or  so  are  to  be  tried  the  men  who  lately  fired  at 
the  Emperor.  It  will  be  a  grand,  a  fine  sight  when  the 
great  arched  hall  is  full.  I  got  a  picture  of  the  castle,  and 
one  of  a  fireplace  for  Pa.  It  is  a  mass  of  gold  and  color, 
with  the  porcupine  of  Louis  XIII.  an4  the  ermine  of  his 
wife  Anne  of  Brittany,  their  arms,  in  medallion  over  it. 

At  5  P.  M.  we  go  on  to  Orleans  for  a  day,  where  I  shall 
get  some  relics  of  Joan  of  Arc  for  Nan.  We  shall  pass 
Sunday  at  Bourges  where  the  great  church  is,  and  then 
either  to  Geneva  or  the  Jura,  for  a  few  weeks  of  rest. 

GENEVA,  June  29,  1870. 

It  seems  almost  like  getting  home  again  to  be  here 
where  I  never  thought  to  come  again  when  I  went  away 
five  years  ago.  We  are  at  the  Metropole  Hotel  right  on 
the  lake  with  a  glimpse  of  Mount  Blanc  from  our  win- 
dows. It  is  rather  fine  after  the  grimy  little  inns  of 
Brittany,  and  we  enjoy  a  sip  of  luxury  and  put  on  our 
best  gowns  with  feminine  satisfaction  after  living  in  old 
travelling  suits  for  a  fortnight. 

I  began  my  letter  at  Blois,  where  we  spent  a  day  or 
two.  At  Orleans  we  only  passed  a  night,  but  we  had 
time  to  see  the  famous  statue  of  the  Maid,  put  up  in  grati- 
tude by  the  people  of  the  city  she  saved.  It  is  a  fine 
statue  of  Joan  in  her  armor  on  horseback,  with  her  sword 
drawn.  Round  the  base  of  the  statue  are  bronzed  bas- 
reliefs  of  her  life  from  the  girl  with  her  sheep,  to  the 
martyr  at  the  stake.  They  were  very  fine,  but  don't  show 
much  in  the  photograph  which  I  got  for  Nan,  remember- 
ing the  time  when  she  translated  Schiller's  play  for  me. 

At  Bourges  we  saw  the  great  cathedral,  but  did  n't 
like  it  as  well  as  that  in  Tours.  We  only  spent  a  night 
there,  and  A.  bought  an  antique  ring  of  the  time  of 

238  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Francis  I.,  —  an  emerald  set  in  diamonds.     It  cost  $9, 
and  is  very  quaint  and  handsome. 

Moulins  we  reached  Sunday  noon,  and  at  3  o'clock 
went  to  vespers  in  the  old  church,  where  we  saw  a  good 
deal  of  mumbo-jumbo  by  red,  purple,  and  yellow  priests, 
and  heard  a  boy  with  a  lovely  voice  sing  in  the  hidden 
choir  like  a  little  angel  among  the  clouds.  A.  had  a 
fancy  to  stay  a  week,  if  we  could  find  rooms  out  of  town 
in  some  farm-house  ;  for  the  handsome  white  cattle  have 
captivated  her,  and  we  were  rather  tired.  So  the  old 
lady  at  the  hotel  said  she  had  a  little  farm-house  out 
in  the  fields,  and  we  should  go  see  it  with  her  in  bas- 
ket chay.  After  dinner  we  all  piled  in  and  went  along 
a  dusty  road  to  a  little  dirty  garden-house  with  two  rooms 
and  a  few  cabbages  and  rose-bushes  round  it.  She  said 
we  could  sleep  and  eat  at  the  hotel  and  come  down 
here  for  the  day.  That  did  n't  suit  at  all,  so  we  declined  ; 
and  on  Monday  morning  we  set  out  for  Lyons.  It  was  a 
very  interesting  trip  under,  over,  and  through  the  moun- 
tains with  two  engines  and  much  tunnelling  and  up-and- 
down  grading.  May  was  greatly  excited  at  the  queer 
things  we  did,  and  never  knew  that  cars  could  turn  such 
sharp  corners.  We  wound  about  so  that  we  could  see  the 
engine  whisking  out  of  sight  round  one  corner  while  we 
were  turning  another,  and  the  long  train  looked  like  a 
snake  winding  through  the  hills.  The  tunnels  were  so 
long  that  lamps  were  lighted,  and  so  cold  we  put  on  our 
sacks  while  passing  in  the  darkness.  The  scenery  was 
very  fine ;  and  after  we  left  Lyons,  where  we  merely  slept, 
the  Alps  began  to  appear,  and  May  and  I  stared  in  bliss- 
ful silence ;  for  we  had  two  tall  old  men  opposite,  and  a 
little  priest,  so  young  that  we  called  him  the  Rev.  boy. 
He  slept  and  said  his  prayers  most  of  the  time,  stealing 
sly  looks  at  May's  hair,  A.'s  pretty  hands,  and  my  buckled 

Europe.  239 

shoes,  which  were  like  his  own  and  seemed  to  strike  him 
as  a  liberty  on  my  part.  The  old  boys  were  very  jolly, 
especially  the  one  with  three  chins,  who  smiled  pater- 
nally upon  us  and  tried  to  talk.  But  we  were  very  Eng- 
lish and  mum,  and  he  thought  we  didn't  understand 
French,  and  confided  to  his  friend  that  he  did  n't  see 
"  how  the  English  could  travel  and  know  not  the  French 
tongue."  They  sang,  gabbled,  slept,  and  slapped  one 
another  at  intervals,  and  were  very  amusing  till  they  left, 
and  another  very  handsome  Booth-like  priest  took  their 

To  her  Father. 

BEX,  July  14,  1870. 

DEAR  PA, — As  I  have  not  written  to  you  yet,  I  will 
send  you  a  picture-letter  and  tell  you  about  the  very  in- 
teresting old  Count  Sz —  who  is  here.  This  morning  he 
asked  us  to  go  to  the  hills  and  see  some  curious  trees 
which  he  says  were  planted  from  acorns  and  nuts  brought 
from  Mexico  by  Atala.  We  found  some  very  ancient 
oaks  and  chestnuts,  and  the  enthusiastic  old  man  told  us 
the  story  about  the  Druids  who  once  had  a  church,  am- 
phitheatre, and  sacrifical  altar  up  there.  No  one  knows 
much  about  it,  and  he  imagines  a  good  deal  to  suit  his  own 
pet  theory.  You  would  have  liked  to  hear  him  hold  forth 
about  the  races  and  Zoroaster,  Plato,  etc.  He  is  a  Hun- 
garian of  a  very  old  family,  descended  from  Semiramide 
and  Zenobia.  He  believes  that  the  body  can  be  cured 
often  by  influencing  the  soul,  and  that  doctors  should  be 
priests,  and  priests  doctors,  as  the  two  affect  the  body 
and  soul  which  depend  on  one  another.  He  is  doing 
a  great  deal  for  Miss  W.,  who  has  tried  many  doctors 
and  got  no  help.  I  never  saw  such  a  kindly,  simple,  en- 
thusiastic, old  soul,  for  at  sixty-seven  he  is  as  full  of  hope 
and  faith  and  good-will  as  a  young  man.  I  told  him  I 

240  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

should  like  my  father  to  see  a  little  book  he  has  written, 
and  he  is  going  to  give  me  one. 

We  like  this  quiet  little  place  among  the  mountains, 
and  pass  lazy  days  ;  for  it  is  very  warm,  and  we  sit  about  on 
our  balconies  enjoying  the  soft  air,  the  moonlight,  and  the 
changing  aspect  of  the  hiils. 

May  had  a  fine  exciting  time  going  up  St.  Bernard, 
and  is  now  ready  for  another.  .  .  . 

The  Polish  Countess  and  her  daughter  have  been  read- 
ing my  books  and  are  charmed  with  them.  Madame 
says  she  is  not  obliged  to  turn  down  any  pages  so  that 
the  girls  may  not  read  them,  as  she  does  in  many  books, 
"  All  is  so  true,  so  sweet,  so  pious,  she  may  rea4  every 

I  send  by  this  mail  the  count's  little  pamphlet.  I 
don' i  know  as  it  amounts  to  much,  but  I  thought  you 
might  like  to  see  it. 

Love  to  every  one,  and  write  often  to  your 

Affectionate  daughter  L.  M.  A. 

BEX,  July  18,  1870. 

DEAR  PEOPLE,  —  The  breaking  out  of  this  silly  little 
war  between  France  and  Prussia  will  play  the  deuce  with 
our  letters.  I  have  had  none  from  you  for  a  long  time  ; 
and  Alexandre,  the  English  waiter  here,  says  that  the  mails 
will  be  left  to  come  as  they  can,  for  the  railroads  are  all 
devoted  to  carrying  troops  to  the  seat  of  war.  The 
French  have  already  crossed  the  Rhine,  and  rumors  of  a 
battle  came  last  eve  ;  but  the  papers  have  not  arrived,  and 
no  letters  for  any  one,  so  all  are  fuming  for  news,  public 
and  private,  and  I  am  howling  for  my  home  letter,  which 
is  more  important  than  all  the  papers  on  the  continent. . . . 

Don't  be  worried  if  you  don't  hear  regularly,  or  think 
us  in  danger.  Switzerland  is  out  of  the  mess,  and  if  she 

Europe.  241 

gets  in,  we  can  skip  over  into  Italy,  and  be  as  cosey  as 
possible.  It  will  make  some  difference  in  money,  per- 
haps, as  Munroe  in  Paris  is  our  banker,  and  we  shall  be 
plagued  about  our  letters,  otherwise  the  war  won't  effect 
us  a  bit ;  I  dare  say  you  know  as  much  about  it  as  we  do, 
and  Marmee  is  predicting  "  a  civil  war "  all  over  the 
world.  We  hear  accounts  of  the  frightful  heat  with  you. 
Don't  wilt  away  before  we  come.  .  .  . 

Lady  Amberley  is  a  trump,  and  I  am  glad  she  says  a 
word  for  her  poor  sex  though  she  is  a  peeress.  .  .  . 

I  should  like  to  have  said  of  me  what  Hedge  says  of 
Dickens ;  and  when  I  die,  I  should  prefer  such  a  mem- 
ory rather  than  a  tomb  in  Westminster  Abbey. 


I  hope  to  have  a  good  letter  from  Nan  soon.  May 
does  the  descriptions  so  well  that  I  don't  try  it,  being 
lazy.  Lu. 

To  Anna. 

SUNDAY,  July  24,  1870. 

.  .  .  The  war  along  the  Rhine  is  sending  troops  of 
travellers  to  Switzerland  for  refuge ;  and  all  the  large 
towns  are  brimful  of  people  flying  from  Germany.  It 
won't  trouble  us,  for  we  have  done  France  and  don't 
mean  to  do  Germany.  So  when  August  is  over,  we  shall 
trot  forward  to  Italy,  and  find  a  warm  place  for  our  win- 
ter-quarters. At  any  time  twenty-four  hours  carries  us 
over  the  Simplon,  so  we  sit  at  ease  and  don't  care  a 
straw  for  old  France  and  Prussia.  Russia,  it  is  reported, 
has  joined  in  the  fight,  but  Italy  and  England  are  not 
going  to  meddle,  so  we  can  fly  to  either  "  in  case  of 
fire."  l 

1  This  was  a  family  joke  as  Mrs.  Alcott  always  ended  her  in- 
structions to  her  children  "  in  case  of  fire/' 


242  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

BEX,  July  27, 1870. 

We  heard  of  Dickens's  death  some  weeks  ago  and  have 
been  reading  notices,  etc.,  in  all  the  papers  since.  One 
by  G.  Greenwood  in  the  Tribune  was  very  nice.  I  shall 
miss  my  old  Charlie,  but  he  is  not  the  old  idol  he  once 
was.  .  .  . 

Did  you  know  that  Higginson  and  a  little  girl  friend 
had  written  out  the  Operatic  Tragedy  in  "  Little  Women  " 
and  set  the  songs  to  music  and  it  was  all  to  be  put  in 
"  Our  Young  Folks."  What  are  we  coming  to  in  our  old 
age?  Also  I  hope  to  see  the  next  designs  N.  has  got  for 
"Little  Women."  I  know  nothing  about  them. 

To  her  Mother. 

3  P.M.,  BEX,  July  31,  1870. 

Papers  are  suppressed  by  the  Government  so  we  know 
nothing  about  the  war,  except  the  rumors  that  float  about. 
But  people  seem  to  think  that  Europe  is  in  for  a  general 
fight,  and  there  is  no  guessing  when  it  will  end. 

The  trouble  about  getting  into  Italy  is,  that  civil  war 
always  breaks  out  there  and  things  are  so  mixed  up  that 
strangers  get  into  scrapes  among  the  different  squabblers. 
When  the  P.'s  were  abroad  during  the  last  Italian  fuss,  they 
got  shut  up  in  some  little  city  and  would  have  been  killed 
by  Austrians,  who  were  rampaging  round  the  place  drunk 
and  mad,  if  a  woman  had  not  hid  them  in  a  closet  for  a 
day  and  night,  and  smuggled  them  out  at  last,  when  they 
ran  for  their  lives.  I  don't  mean  to  get  into  any  mess, 
and  between  Switzerland  and  England  we  can  manage 
for  a  winter.  London  is  so  near  home  and  so  home-like 
that  we  shall  be  quite  handy  and  can  run  up  to  Boston 
at  any  time.  Perhaps  Pa  will  step  across  to  see  us. 

All  these  plans  may  be  knocked  in  the  head  to- 
morrow and  my  next  letter  may  be  dated  from  the  Pope's 

Europe.  243 

best  parlor  or  Windsor  Castle  ;  but  I  like  to  spin  about  on 
ups  and  downs  so  you  can  have  something  to  talk  about 
at  Apple  Slump.  Uncertainty  gives  a  relish  to  things,  so 
we  chase  about  and  have  a  dozen  plans  a  day.  It  is  an 
Alcott  failing  you  know.  .  .  . 
Love  to  all  and  bless  you, 

Ever  yours,  Lu. 

BEX,  Aug.  7,  1870. 

DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  I  keep  receiving  requests  from 
editors  to  write  for  their  papers  and  magazines.  I  am 
truly  grateful,  but  having  come  abroad  for  rest  I  am  not 
inclined  to  try  the  treadmill  till  my  year's  vacation  is 
over.  So  to  appease  these  worthy  gentlemen  and  excuse 
my  seeming  idleness  I  send  you  a  trifle  in  rhyme',1  which 
you  can  (if  you  think  it  worth  the  trouble)  set  going  as 
a  general  answer  to  everybody ;  for  I  can't  pay  postage 
in  replies  to  each  separately,  —  "  it 's  very  costly."  Mr. 
F.  said  he  would  pay  me  $10,  $15,  $20  for  any  little 
things  I  would  send  him ;  so  perhaps  you  will  let  him 
have  it  first. 

The  war  makes  the  bankers  take  double  toll  on  our 
money,  so  we  feel  very  poor  and  as  if  we  ought  to  be 
earning,  not  spending ;  only  we  are  so  lazy  we  can't  bear 
to  think  of  it  in  earnest.  .  .  . 

We  shall  probably  go  to  London  next  month  if  the 
war  forbids  Italy  for  the  winter ;  and  if  we  can't  get  one 
dollar  without  paying  five  for  it,  we  shall  come  home 

Perhaps  if  I  can  do  nothing  else  this  year  I  could  have 
a  book  of  short  stories,  old  and  new,  for  Christmas.  F. 
and  F.  have  some  good  ones,  and  I  have  the  right  to 
use  them.  \Ve  could  call  them  "  Jo  March's  Necessity 

1  This  is  the  poem  prefixed  to  the  chapter. 

244  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Stories."     Would  it  go  with  new  ones  added  and  good 
illustrations  ? 

I  am  rising  from  my  ashes  in  a  most  phoenix- like 
manner.  L.  M.  A. 

To  her  Mother. 
VEVAY,  PENSION  PARADIS,  Aug.  n,  1870. 

DEAR  MARMEE,  —  ...  This  house  is  very  cosey,  and 
the  food  excellent.  I  thought  it  would  be  when  I  heard 
gentlemen  liked  it,  —  they  always  want  good  fodder. 
There  are  only  three  now,  —  an  old  Spaniard  and  his  son, 
and  a  young  Frenchman.  We  see  them  at  meals,  and 
the  girls  play  croquet  with  them.  .  .  . 

This  is  the  gay  season  here,  and  in  spite  of  the  war 
Vevay  is  full.  The  ex- Queen  of  Spain  and  her  family 
are  here  at  the  Grand  Hotel ;  also  Don  Carlos,  the  right- 
ful heir  to  the  Spanish  throne.  Our  landlady  says  that 
her  house  used  to  be  full  of  Spaniards,  who  every  day 
went  in  crowds  to  call  on  the  two  kings,  Alphonse  and 
Carlos.  We  see  brown  men  and  women  with  black  eyes 
driving  round  in  fine  coaches,  with  servants  in  livery,  who 
I  suppose  are  the  Court  people. 

The  papers  tell  us  that  the  French  have  lost  two  big 
battles ;  the  Prussians  are  in  Strasbourg,  and  Paris  in  a 
state  of  siege.  The  papers  are  also  full  of  theatrical 
messages  from  the  French  to  the  people,  asking  them  to 
come  up  and  be  slaughtered  for  la  patrie,  and  sober, 
cool  reports  from  the  Prussians.  I  side  with  the  Prus- 
sians, for  they  sympathized  with  us  in  our  war.  Hooray 
for  old  Pruss  !  .  .  . 

France  is  having  a  bad  time.  Princess  Clotilda  passed 
through  Geneva  the  other  day  with  loads  of  baggage,  flying 
to  Italy ;  and  last  week  a  closed  car  with  the  imperial  arms 
on  it  went  by  here  in  the  night,  —  supposed  to  be  Matilde 

Europe.  245 

and  other  royal  folks  flying  away  from  Paris.  The  Prince 
Imperial  has  been  sent  home  from  the  seat  of  war ;  and 
poor  Eugenie  is  doing  her  best  to  keep  things  quiet  in 
Paris.  The  French  here  say  that  a  republic  is  already 
talked  of;  and  the  Emperor  is  on  his  last  legs  in  every 
way.  He  is  sick,  and  his  doctor  won't  let  him  ride,  and 
so  nervous  he  can't  command  the  army  as  he  wanted  to. 
Poor  old  man  !  one  can't  help  pitying  him  when  all  his 
plans  fail. 

We  still  dawdle  along,  getting  fat  and  hearty.  The 
food  is  excellent.  A  breakfast  of  coffee  and  tip-top 
bread,  fresh  butter,  with  eggs  or  fried  potatoes,  at  8  ;  a  real 
French  dinner  at  1.30,  of  soup,  fish,  meat,  game,  salad, 
sweet  messes,  and  fruit,  with  wine ;  and  at  7  cold  meat, 
salad,  sauce,  tea,  and  bread  and  butter.  It  is  grape  time 
now,  and  for  a  few  cents  we  get  pounds,  on  which  we  feast 
all  day  at  intervals.  We  walk  and  play  as  well  as  any 
one,  and  feel  so  well  I  ought  to  do  something.  .  .  . 

Fred  and  Jack  would  like  to  look  out  of  my  window 
now  and  see  the  little  boys  playing  in  the  lake.  They 
are  there  all  day  long  like  little  pigs,  r.nd  lie  around  on 
the  warm  stones  to  dry,  splashing  one  another  for  exer- 
cise. One  boy,  having  washed  himself,  is  now  washing 
his  clothes,  and  all  lying  out  to  dry  together.  .  .  . 

Ever  yours,  Lu. 

To  Anna. 

VEVAY,  Aug.  21,  1870. 

I  had  such  a  droll  dream  last  night  I  must  tell  you.  I 
thought  I  was  returning  to  Concord  after  my  trip,  and 
was  alone.  As  I  walked  from  the  station  I  missed  Mr. 
Moore's  house,  and  turning  the  corner,  found  the  scene 
so  changed  that  I  did  not  know  where  I  was.  Our  house 
was  gone,  and  in  its  place  stood  a  great  gray  stone  castle, 

246  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

with  towers  and  arches  and  lawns  and  bridges,  very  fine 
and  antique.  Somehow  I  got  into  it  without  meeting 
any  one  of  you,  and  wandered  about  trying  to  find  my 
family.  At  last  I  came  across  Mr.  Moore,  papering  a 
room,  and  asked  him  where  his  house  was.  He  did  n't 
know  me,  and  said,  — 

"  Oh  !  I  sold  it  to  Mr.  Alcott  for  his  school,  and  we 
live  in  Acton  now." 

"  Where  did  Mr.  Alcott  get  the  means  to  build  this 
great  concern?"  I  asked. 

"  Well,  he  gave  his  own  land,  and  took  the  great  pas- 
ture his  daughter  left  him, —  the  one  that  died  some  ten 
years  ago." 

"So  I  am  dead,  am  I?"  says  I  to  myself,  feeling  so 

"  Government  helped  build  this  place,  and  Mr.  A.  has  a 
fine  college  here,"  Si  id  Mr.  Moore,  papering  away  again. 

I  went  on,  wondering  at  the  news,  and  looked  into  a 
glass  to  see  how  I  looked  dead.  I  found  myself  a  fat  old 
lady,  with  gray  hair  and  specs,  —  very  like  E.  P.  P.  I 
laughed,  and  coming  to  a  Gothic  window,  looked  out  and 
saw  hundreds  of  young  men  and  boys  in  a  queer  flowing 
dress,  roaming  about  the  parks  and  lawns ;  and  among 
them  was  Pa,  looking  as  he  looked  thirty  years  ago,  with 
brown  hair  and  a  big  white  neckcloth,  as  in  the  old  times. 
He  looked  so  plump  and  placid  and  young  and  happy  I 
was  charmed  to  see  him,  and  nodded  ;  but  he  did  n't 
know  me ;  and  I  was  so  grieved  and  troubled  at  be- 
ing a  Rip  Van  Winkle,  I  cried,  and  said  I  had  better  go 
away  and  not  disturb  any  one,  —  and  in  the  midst  of  my 
woe,  I  woke  up.  It  was  all  so  clear  and  funny,  I  can't 
help  thinking  that  it  may  be  a  foreshadowing  of  something 
real.  I  used  to  dream  of  being  famous,  and  it  has  partly 
become  true ;  so  why  not  Pa's  college  blossom,  and  he 

Europe.  247 

get  young  and  happy  with  his  disciples  ?  I  only  hope  he 
won't  quite  forget  me  when  I  come  back,  fat  and  gray 
and  old.  Perhaps  his  dream  is  to  come  in  another  world, 
where  everything  is  fresh  and  calm,  and  the  reason  why 
he  did  n't  recognize  me  was  because  I  was  still  in  this 
work-a-day  world,  and  so  felt  old  and  strange  in  this 
lovely  castle  in  the  air.  Well,  he  is  welcome  to  my  for- 
tune ;  but  the  daughter  who  did  die  ten  years  ago  is  more 
likely  to  be  the  one  who  helped  him  build  his  School  of 
Concord  up  aloft. 

I  can  see  how  the  dream  came  ;  for  I  had  been  looking 
at  Silling's  boys  in  their  fine  garden,  and  wishing  I  could 
go  in  and  know  the  dear  little  lads  walking  about  there, 
in  the  forenoon.  I  had  got  a  topknot  at  the  barber's, 
and  talked  about  my  gray  hairs,  and  looking  in  the  glass 
thought  how  fat  and  old  I  was  getting,  and  had  shown 
the  B.'s  Pa's  picture,  which  they  thought  saintly,  etc.  I 
believe  in  dreams,  though  I  am  free  to  confess  that 
"  cowcumbers  "  for  tea  may  have  been  the  basis  of  this 
"  ally-gorry-cal  wision."  .  .  . 

As  we  know  the  Consul  at  Spezzia,  —  that  is,  we  have 
letters  to  him,  as  well  as  to  many  folks  in  Rome,  etc.,  — 
I  guess  we  shall  go ;  for  the  danger  of  Europe  getting 
into  the  fight  is  over  now,  and  we  can  sail  to  England  or 
home  any  time  from  Italy.  .  .  .  Love  to  every  one. 

Kiss  my  cousin  for  me. 

Ever  your  Lu. 

To  Mr.  Niles. 

AUGUST  23,  1870. 

Your  note  of  August  2  has  just  come,  with  a  fine 
budget  of  magazines  and  a  paper,  for  all  of  which  many 

248  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Don't  give  my  address  to  any  one.  I  don't  want  the 
young  ladies'  notes.  They  can  send  them  to  Concord, 
and  I  shall  get  them  next  year. 


The  boys  at  Silling's  school  are  a  perpetual  source  of 
delight  to  me  ;  and  I  stand  at  the  gate,  like  the  Peri,  long- 
ing to  go  in  and  play  with  the  lads.  The  young  ladies 
who  want  to  find  live  Lauries  can  be  supplied  here,  for 
Silling  has  a  large  assortment  always  on  hand. 

My  B.  says  she  is  constantly  trying  to  incite  me  to 
literary  effort,  but  I  hang  fire.  So  I  do,  —  but  only  that 
I  may  go  off  with  a  bang  by  and  by,  a  la  mitrailleuse. 

L.  M.  A. 

To  Jur  Family. 

VEVAY,  Aug.  29,  1870. 

DEAR  PEOPLE,  —  .  .  .  M.  Nicaud,  the  owner  of  this 
house,  —  a  funny  old  man,  with  a  face  so  like  a  parrot 
that  we  call  him  M.  Perrot,  —  asked  us  to  come  and 
visit  him  at  his  chalet  up  among  the  hills.  He  is 
building  a  barn  there,  and  stays  to  see  that  all  goes 
well ;  so  we  only  see  him  on  Sundays,  when  he  con- 
vulses us  by  his  funny  ways.  Last  week  seven  of  us 
went  up  in  a  big  landau,  and  the  old  dear  entertained 
us  like  a  prince.  We  left  the  carriage  at  the  foot  of 
a  little  steep  path,  and  climbed  up  to  the  dearest  old 
chalet  we  ever  saw.  Here  Pa  Nicaud  met  us,  took 
us  up  the  outside  steps  into  his  queer  little  salon,  and 
regaled  us  with  his  sixty-year  old  wine  and  nice  little 
cakes.  We  then  set  forth,  in  spite  of  clouds  and  wind, 
to  view  the  farm  and  wood.  It  showered  at  intervals, 
but  no  one  seemed  to  care ;  so  we  trotted  about  under 
umbrellas,  getting  mushrooms,  flowers,  and  colds,  viewing 
the  Tarpeian  Rock,  and  sitting  on  rustic  seats  to  enjoy 

Europe.  249 

the  belle  vue,  which  consisted  of  fog.  It  was  such  a  droll 
lark  that  we  laughed  and  ran,  and  enjoyed  the  damp  pic- 
nic very  much.  Then  we  had  a  tip- top  Swiss  dinner,  fol- 
lowed by  coffee,  three  sorts  of  wine,  and  cigars.  Every 
one  smoked,  and  as  it  poured  guns,  the  old  Perrot  had 
a  blazing  fire  made,  round  which  we  sat,  talking  many 
languages,  singing,  and  revelling.  We  had  hardly  got 
through  dinner  and  seen  another  foggy  view  when  tea  was 
announced,  and  we  stuffed  again,  having  pitchers  of  cream, 
fruit,  and  a  queer  but  very  nice  dish  of  slices  of  light 
bread  dipped  in  egg  and  fried,  and  eaten  with  sugar. 
The  buxom  Swiss  maid  flew  and  grinned,  and  kept  serv- 
ing up  some  new  mess  from  her  tiny  dark  kitchen.  It 
cleared  off.  and  we  walked  home  in  spite  of  our  immense 
exploits  in  the  eating  line.  Old  Perrot  escorted  us  part 
way  down,  and  we  gave  three  cheers  for  him  as  we 
parted.  Then  we  showed  Madame  and  the  French  gov- 
erness and  Don  Juan  (the  Spanish  boy)  some  tall  walking, 
though  the  roads  were  very  steep  and  rough  and  muddy. 
We  tramped  some  five  miles ;  and  our  party  (May,  A., 
the  governess,  and  I)  got  home  long  before  Madame  and 
Don  Juan,  who  took  a  short  cut,  and  would  n't  believe 
that  we  did  n't  get  a  lift  somehow.  I  felt  quite  proud 
of  my  old  pins ;  for  they  were  not  tired,  and  none  the 
worse  for  the  long  walk.  I  think  they  are  really  all  right 
now,  for  the  late  cold  weather  has  not  troubled  them  in 
the  least ;  and  I  sleep  —  O  ye  gods,  how  I  do  sleep  !  —  ten 
or  twelve  hours  sound,  and  get  up  so  drunk  with  dizziness 
it  is  lovely  to  see.  Aint  I  grateful?  Oh,  yes  !  oh,  yes  ! 

We  began  French  lessons  to-day,  May  and  I,  of  the 
French  governess,  —  a  kind  old  girl  who  only  asks  two 
francs  a  lesson.  We  must  speak  the  language,  for  it  is 
disgraceful  to  be  so  stupid ;  so  we  have  got  to  work,  and 
mean  to  be  able  to  parlez-vous  or  die.  The  war  is  still 

250  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

a  nuisance,  and  we  may  be  here  some  time,  and  really 
need  some  work  ;  for  we  are  so  lazy  we  shall  be  spoilt,  if 
we  don't  fall  to.  ... 

I  gave  Count  C.  Pa's  message,  and  he  was  pleased. 
He  reads  no  English,  and  is  going  to  Hungary  soon ;  so 
Pa  had  better  not  send  the  book.  .  .  .  Lu. 

VEVAY,  Sept.  10,  1870. 

DEAR  PEOPLE,  —  As  all  Europe  seems  to  be  going  to 
destruction,  I  hasten  to  drop  a  line  before  the  grand 
smash  arrives.  We  mean  to  skip  over  the  Alps  next  week, 
if  weather  and  war  permit ;  for  we  are  bound  to  see 
Milan  and  the  lakes,  even  if  we  have  to  turn  and  come 
back  without  a  glimpse  of  Rome.  The  Pope  is  beginning 
to  perk  up ;  and  Italy  and  England  and  Russia  seem 
ready  to  join  in  the  war,  now  that  France  is  down.  Think 
of  Paris  being  bombarded  and  smashed  up  like  Stras- 
bourg. We  never  shall  see  the  grand  old  cathedral  at 
Strasbourg  now,  it  is  so  spoilt. 

Vevay  is  crammed  with  refugees  from  Paris  and  Stras- 
bourg. Ten  families  applied  here  yesterday.  .  .  . 

Our  house  is  brimful,  and  we  have  funny  times.  The 
sick  Russian  lady  and  her  old  Ma  make  a  great  fuss  if  a 
breath  of  air  comes  in  at  meal  times,  and  expect  twenty 
people  to  sit  shut  tight  in  a  smallish  room  for  an  hour  on 
a  hot  day.  We  protested,  and  Madame  put  them  in  the 
parlor,  where  they  glower  as  we  pass,  and  lock  the  door 
when  they  can.  The  German  Professor  is  learning  Eng- 
lish, and  is  a  quiet,  pleasant  man.  The  Polish  General, 
a  little  cracked,  is  very  droll,  and  bursts  out  in  the  middle 
of  the  general  chat  with  stories  about  transparent  apples 
and  golden  horses.  .  .  .  Benda,  the  crack  book-and- 
picture  man,  has  asked  May  if  she  was  the  Miss  Alcott 
who  wrote  the  popular  books  ;  for  he  said  he  had  many  calls 

Europe.  251 

for  them,  and  wished  to  know  where  they  could  be  found. 
We  told  him  "at  London,"  and  felt  puffed  up.   .  .  . 

May  and  I  delve  away  at  French ;  but  it  makes  my 
head  ache,  and  I  don't  learn  enough  to  pay  for  the 
trouble.  I  never  could  study,  you  know,  and  suffer  such 
agony  when  I  try  that  it  is  piteous  to  behold.  The 
little  brains  I  have  left  I  want  to  keep  for  future  works, 
and  not  exhaust  them  on  grammar,  —  vile  invention 
of  Satan  !  May  gets  on  slowly,  and  don't  have  fits  after 
it ;  so  she  had  better  go  on  (the  lessons  only  cost  two 
francs).  ...  L.  M.  A. 

To  her  Mother. 

LAGO  DI  COMO,  Oct.  8,  1870. 

DEAREST  MARMEE,  —  A  happy  birthday,  and  many  of 
'em  !  Here  we  actually  are  in  the  long-desired  Italy,  and 
find  it  as  lovely  as  we  hoped.  Our  journey  was  a  perfect 
success,  —  sunlight,  moonlight,  magnificent  scenery,  pleas- 
ant company,  no  mishaps,  and  one  long  series  of  beautiful 
pictures  all  the  way. 

Crossing  the  Simplon  is  an  experience  worth  having ; 
for  without  any  real  danger,  fatigue,  or  hardship,  one 
sees  some  of  the  finest  as  well  as  most  awful  parts  of  these 
wonderful  Alps. 

The  road,  —  a  miracle  in  itself !  for  all  Nature  seems 
to  protest  against  it,  and  the  elements  never  tire  of  trying 
to  destroy  it.  Only  a  Napoleon  would  have  dreamed  of 
making  a  path  through  such  a  place  ;  and  he  only  cared 
for  it  as  a  way  to  get  his  men  and  cannon  into  an  enemy's 
country  by  this  truly  royal  road. 

May  has  told  you  about  our  trip ;  so  I  will  only  add  a 
few  bits  that  she  forgot. 

Our  start  in  the  dawn  from  Brieg,  with  two  diligences, 
a  carriage,  and  a  cart,  was  something  between  a  funeral 

252  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

and  a  caravan  :  first  an  immense  diligence  with  seven 
horses,  then  a  smaller  one  with  four,  then  our  caleche 
with  two,  and  finally  the  carrier's  cart  with  one.  It  was 
very  exciting,  -  -  the  general  gathering  of  sleepy  travellers 
in  the  dark  square,  the  tramping  of  horses,  the  packing 
in,  the  grand  stir  of  getting  off;  then  the  slow  winding 
up,  up,  up  out  of  the  valley  toward  the  sun,  which  came 
slowly  over  the  great  hills,  rising  as  we  never  saw  it  rise 
before.  The  still,  damp  pine-forests  kept  us  in  shadow 
a  long  time  after  the  white  mountain-tops  began  to  shine. 
Little  by  little  we  wound  through  a  great  gorge,  and  then 
the  sun  came  dazzling  between  these  grand  hills,  showing 
us  a  new  world.  Peak  after  peak  of  the  Bernese  Ober- 
land  rose  behind  us,  and  great  white  glaciers  lay  before 
us ;  while  the  road  crept  like  a  narrow  line,  in  and  out, 
over  chasms  that  made  us  dizzy  to  look  at,  under  tunnels, 
and  through  stone  galleries  with  windows  over  which 
dashed  waterfalls  from  the  glaciers  above.  Here  and 
there  were  refuges,  a  hospice,  and  a  few  chalets,  where 
shepherds  live  their  wild,  lonely  lives.  In  the  p.  M. 
we  drove  rapidly  down  toward  Italy  through  the  great 
Valley  of  Gondo,  —  a  deep  rift  in  rock  thousands  of  feet 
deep,  and  just  wide  enough  for  the  road  and  a  wild  stream 
that  was  our  guide  ;  a  never-to-be-forgotten  place,  and  a 
fit  gateway  to  Italy,  which  soon  lay  smiling  below  us. 
The  change  is  very  striking ;  and  when  we  came  to  Lago 
Maggiore  lying  in  the  moonlight  we  could  only  sigh  for 
happiness,  and  love  and  look  and  look.  After  a  good 
night's  rest  at  Stresa,  we  went  in  a  charming  gondola-sort 
of  boat  to  see  Isola  Bella,  —  the  island  you  see  in  the 
chromo  over  the  fireplace  at  home,  -  -  a  lovely  island, 
with  famous  castle,  garden,  and  town  on  it.  The  day  was 
as  balmy  as  summer,  and  we  felt  like  butterflies  after  a 
frost,  and  fluttered  about,  enjoying  the  sunshine  all  day. 

Europe.  253 

A  sail  by  steamer  brought  us  to  Luino,  where  we  went 
on  the  diligence  to  Lugano.  Moonlight  all  the  way,  and 
a  gay  driver,  who  wound  his  horn  as  we  clattered  into 
market-places  and  over  bridges  in  the  most  gallant  style. 
The  girls  were  on  top,  and  in  a  state  of  rapture  all  the 
way.  After  supper  in  a  vaulted,  frescoed  hall,  with  marble 
floors,  pillars,  and  galleries,  we  went  to  a  room  which  had 
green  doors,  red  carpet,  blue  walls,  and  yellow  bed-covers, 
—  all  so  gay  !  It  was  like  sleeping  ui  a  rainbow. 

As  if  a  heavenly  lake  under  our  windows  with  moon- 
light ad  libitum  was  n't  enough,  we  had  music  next  door ; 
and  on  leaning  out  of  a  little  back  window,  we  made  the 
splendid  discovery  that  we  could  look  on  to  the  stage 
of  the  opera-house  across  a  little  alley.  My  Nan  can 
imagine  with  what  rapture  I  stared  at  the  scenes  going 
on  below  me,  and  how  I  longed  for  her  as  I  stood  there 
wrapped  in  my  yellow  bed-quilt,  and  saw  gallant  knights 
in  armor  warble  sweetly  to  plump  ladies  in  masks,  or 
pretty  peasants  fly  wildly  from  ardent  lovers  in  red  tights  ; 
also  a  dishevelled  maid  who  tore  her  hair  in  a  forest, 
while  a  man  aloft  made  thunder  and  lightning,  —  and  / 
saw  him  do  it ! 

It  was  the  climax  to  a  splendid  day ;  for  few  travellers 
can  go  to  the  opera  luxuriously  in  their  night-gowns,  and 
take  naps  between  the  acts  as  I  did. 

A  lovely  sail  next  morning  down  the  lake  ;  then  a 
carriage  to  Menaggio ;  and  then  a  droll  boat,  like  a  big 
covered  market-wagon  with  a  table  and  red-cushioned 
seats,  took  us  and  our  trunks  to  Cadenabbia,  for  there  is 
only  a  donkey  road  to  the  little  town.  At  the  hotel  on 
the  edge  of  the  lake  we  found  Nelly  L.,  a  sweet  girl  as 
lovely  as  Minnie,  and  so  glad  to  see  us ;  for  since  her 
mother  died  in  Venice  last  year  she  has  lived  alone  with 
her  maid.  She  had  waited  for  us,  and  next  day  went  to 

254  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Milan,  where  we  join  her  on  Monday.  She  paints  ;  and 
May  and  she  made  plans  at  once  to  study  together,  and 
enjoy  some  of  the  free  art-schools  at  Milan  and  Naples 
or  Florence,  if  we  can  all  be  together.  It  is  a  great 
chance  for  May,  and  I  mean  she  shall  have  a  good  time, 
and  not  wait  for  tools  and  teachers ;  for  all  is  in  the  way 
of  her  profession,  and  of  use  to  her. 

Cadenabbia  is  only  two  hotels  and  a  few  villas  oppo- 
site Bellagio,  which  is  a  town,  and  fashionable.  We 
were  rowed  over  to  see  it  by  our  boatman,  who  spends 
his  time  at  the  front  of  the  stone  steps  before  the  hotel, 
and  whenever  we  go  out  he  tells  us,  "  The  lake  is  tran- 
quil ;  the  hour  is  come  for  a  walk  on  the  water,"  and  is 
as  coaxing  as  only  an  Italian  can  be.  He  is  amiably 
tipsy  most  of  the  time. 

To-day  it  rains  so  we  cannot  go  out,  and  I  rest  and 
write  to  my  Marmee  in  a  funny  room  with  a  stone  floor 
inlaid  till  it  looks  like  castile  soap,  a  ceiling  in  fat  cupids 
and  trumpeting  fairies,  a  window  on  the  lake,  with  bal- 
cony, etc.  Hand-organs  with  jolly  singing  boys  jingle 
all  day,  and  two  big  bears  go  by  led  by  a  man  with  a 
drum.  The  boys  would  laugh  to  see  them  dance  on 
their  hind  legs,  and  shoulder  sticks  like  soldiers. 

...  All  looks  well,  and  if  the  winter  goes  on  rapidly 
and  pleasantly  as  the  summer  we  shall  soon  be  thinking 
of  home,  unless  one  of  us  decides  to  stay.  I  shall  post 
this  at  Milan  to-morrow,  and  hope  to  find  letters  there 
from  you.  By-by  till  then. 


October,  1870.  —  A  memorable  month.  .  .  .  Off  for 
Italy  on  the  2d.  A  splendid  journey  over  the  Alps  and 
Maggiore  by  moonlight. 

Europe.  255 

Heavenly  days  at  the  lakes,  and  so  to  Milan,  Parma, 
Pisa,  Bologna,  and  Florence.  Disappointed  in  some 
things,  but  found  Nature  always  lovely  and  wonderful ; 
so  did  n't  mind  faded  pictures,  damp  rooms,  and  the 
cold  winds  of  "  sunny  Italy."  Bought  furs  at  Florence, 
and  arrived  in  Rome  one  rainy  night. 

November  \Qth.  —  In  Rome,  and  felt  as  if  I  had  been 
there  before  and  knew  all  about  it.  Always  oppressed 
with  a  sense  of  sin,  dirt,  and  general  decay  of  all  things. 
Not  well ;  so  saw  things  through  blue  glasses.  May  in 
bliss  with  lessons,  sketching,  and  her  dreams.  A.  had 
society,  her  house,  and  old  friends.  The  artists  were 
the  best  company ;  counts  and  princes  very  dull,  what 
we  saw  of  them.  May  and  I  went  off  on  the  Cam- 
pagna,  and  criticised  all  the  world  like  two  audacious 

Our  apartment  in  Piazza  Barbarini  was  warm  and 
cosey;  and  I  thanked  Heaven  for  it,  as  it  rained  for 
two  months,  and  my  first  view  most  of  the  time  was  the 
poor  Triton  with  an  icicle  on  his  nose. 

We  pay  $60  a  month  for  six  good  rooms,  and  $6  a 
month  for  a  girl,  who  cooks  and  takes  care  of  us. 

29/7*.  —  My  thirty-eighth  birthday.  May  gave  me  a 
pretty  sketch,  and  A.  a  fine  nosegay. 

In  Rome  Miss  Alcottwas  shocked  and  grieved  by 
the  news  of  the  death  of  her  well-beloved  brother- 
in-law,  Mr.  Pratt.  She  has  drawn  so  beautiful  a 
picture  of  him  in  "  Little  Women"  and  in  "  Little 
Men,"  that  it  is  hardly  needful  to  dwell  upon  his 
character  or  the  grief  which  his  death  caused  her. 
With  her  usual  care  for  others,  her  thoughts  at 
once  turned  to  the  support  of  the  surviving  family, 
and  she  found  comfort  in  writing  "  Little  Men  ' 

256  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

with  the  thought  of  the  dear  sister  and  nephews 
constantly  in  her  heart. 

In  spite  of  this  great  sorrow  and  anxiety  for 
the  dear  ones  at  home,  the  year  of  travel  was  very 
refreshing  to  her.  Her  companions  were  con- 
genial, she  took  great  delight  in  her  sister's  work, 
and  she  was  independent  in  her  plans,  and  could 
go  whither  and  when  she  would. 

The  voyage  home  was  a  hard  one ;  there  was  small- 
pox on  board,  but  Miss  Alcott  fortunately  escaped 
the  infection.  "  Little  Men  "  \vas  out  the  day  she 
arrived,  as  a  bright  red  placard  in  the  carriage  an- 
nounced, and  besides  all  the  loving  welcomes  from 
family  and  friends,  she  received  the  pleasing  news 
that  fifty  thousand  of  the  books  were  already  sold. 

But  the  old  pains  and  weariness  came  home  with 
her  also.  She  could  not  stay  in  Concord,  and 
went  again  to  Boston,  hoping  to  rest  and  work. 
Her  young  sister  came  home  to  brighten  up  the 
family  with  her  hopeful,  helpful  spirit. 

At  forty  years  of  age  Louisa  had  accomplished 
the  task  she  set  for  herself  in  youth.  By  unceasing 
toil  she  had  made  herself  and  her  family  indepen- 
dent; debts  were  all  paid,  and  enough  was  in- 
vested to  preserve  them  from  want.  And  yet 
wants  seemed  to  increase  with  their  satisfaction, 
and  she  felt  impelled  to  work  enough  to  give  to 
all  the  enjoyments  and  luxuries  which  were  fitted 
to  them  after  the  necessaries  were  provided  for. 
It  may  be  that  her  own  exhausted  nervous  con- 
dition made  it  impossible  for  her  to  rest,  and  the 
demand  which  she  fancied  came  from  without  was 
the  projection  of  her  own  thought. 

Europe.  257 


1871.  —  Rome.  —  Great  inundation.  Streets  flooded, 
churches  with  four  feet  of  water  in  them,  and  queer 
times  for  those  who  were  in  the  overflowed  quarters. 
Meals  hoisted  up  at  the  window ;  people  carried  across 
the  river-like  streets  to  make  calls ;  and  all  manner  of 
funny  doings.  We  were  high  and  dry  at  Piazza  Barbarini, 
and  enjoyed  the  flurry. 

To  the  Capitol  often,  to  spend  the  A.  M.  with  the  Roman 
emperors  and  other  great  men.  M.  Aurelius  as  a  boy 
was  fine ;  Cicero  looked  very  like  W.  Phillips ;  Agrip- 
pina  in  her  chair  was  charming ;  but  the  other  ladies, 
with  hair  a  la  sponge,  were  ugly;  Nero  &  Co.  a  set 
of  brutes  and  bad  men.  But  a  better  sight  to  me  was 
the  crowd  of  poor  people  going  to  get  the  bread  and 
money  sent  by  the  king ;  and  the  splendid  snow-covered 
hills  were  finer  than  the  marble  beauty  inside.  Art  tires  ; 
Nature  never. 

Professor  Pierce  and  his  party  just  from  Sicily,  where 
they  had  been  to  see  the  eclipse,  —  all  beaming  with 
delight,  and  well  repaid  for  the  long  journey  by  a  two 
minutes'  squint  at  the  sun  when  darkest. 

Began  to  write  a  new  book,  "  Little  Men,"  that  John's 
death  may  not  leave  A.  and  the  dear  little  boys  in  want. 
John  took  care  that  they  should  have  enough  while  the 
boys  are  young,  and  worked  very  hard  to  have  a  little 
sum  to  leave,  without  a  debt  anywhere. 

In  writing  and  thinking  of  the  little  lads,  to  whom  I 
must  be  a  father  now,  I  found  comfort  for  my  sorrow. 
May  went  on  with  her  lessons,  "learning,"  as  she  wisely 
said,  how  little  she  knew  and  how  to  go  on. 

February.  —  A  gay  month  in  Rome,  with  the  carnival, 
artists'  fancy  ball,  many  parties,  and  much  calling. 


258  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Decided  to  leave  May  for  another  year,  as  L.  sends 
$700  on  "  Moods,"  and  the  new  book  will  provide 
$1,000  for  the  dear  girl;  so  she  may  be  happy  and  free 
to  follow  her  talent. 

March.  —  Spent  at  Albano.  A  lovely  place.  Walk, 
write,  and  rest.  A  troop  of  handsome  officers  from 
Turin,  who  clatter  by,  casting  soft  glances  at  my  two 
blonde  signorinas,  who  enjoy  it  very  much.1  Baron  and 
Baroness  Rothschild  were  there,  and  the  W.'s  from  Phila- 
delphia, Dr.  O.  W.  and  wife,  and  S.  B.  Mrs.  W.  and 
A.  B.  talk  all  day,  May  sketches,  I  write,  and  so  we  go 
on.  Went  to  look  at  rooms  at  the  Bonapartes. 

April.  —  Venice.  Floated  about  for  two  weeks  seeing 
sights.  A  lovely  city  for  a  short  visit.  Not  enough  going 
on  to  suit  brisk  Americans.  May  painted,  A.  hunted  up 
old  jewelry  and  friends,  and  I  dawdled  after  them. 

A  very  interesting  trip  to  London,  —  over  the  Bren- 
ner Pass  to  Munich,  Cologne,  Antwerp,  and  by  boat  to 

May.  —  A  busy  month.  Settled  in  lodgings,  Brompton 
Road,  and  went  sight-seeing.  Mrs.  P.  Taylor,  Conway, 
and  others  very  kind.  Enjoyed  showing  May  my  favorite 
places  and  people. 

A.  B.  went  home  on  the  nth,  after  a  pleasant  year 
with  us.  I  am  glad  to  know  her,  for  she  is  true  and  very 
interesting.  May  took  lessons  of  Rowbotham  and  was 
happy.  "  Little  Men  "  came  out  in  London. 

I  decided  to  go  home  on  the  25th,  as  I  am  needed. 
A  very  pleasant  year  in  spite  of  constant  pain,  John's 
death,  and  home  anxieties.  Very  glad  I  came,  for  May's 
sake.  It  has  been  a  very  useful  year  for  her. 

June.  -  -  After  an  anxious  passage  of  twelve  days,  got 
safely  home.     Small-pox  on  board,  and  my  room-mate, 

1  See  Shawl  Straps,  p.  179. 

Europe.  259 

Miss  D.,  very  ill.  I  escaped,  but  had  a  sober  time  lying 
next  door  to  her,  waiting  to  see  if  my  turn  was  to 
come.  She  was  left  at  the  island,  and  I  went  up  the 
harbor  with  Judge  Russell,  who  took  some  of  us  off  in 
his  tug. 

Father  and  T.  N.  came  to  meet  me  with  a  great  red 
placard  of  "  Little  Men '  pinned  up  in  the  carriage. 
After  due  precautions,  hurried  home  and  found  all  well. 
My  room  refurnished  and  much  adorned  by  Father's 

Nan  well  and  calm,  but  under  her  sweet  serenity  is  a 
very  sad  soul,  and  she  mourns  for  her  mate  like  a  tender 

The  boys  were  tall,  bright  lads,  devoted  to  Marmee, 
and  the  life  of  the  house. 

Mother  feeble  and  much  aged  by  this  year  of  trouble. 
I  shall  never  go  far  away  from  her  again.  Much  com- 
pany, and  loads  of  letters,  all  full  of  good  wishes  and 

"  Little  Men  "  was  out  the  day  I  arrived.  Fifty  thou- 
sand sold  before  it  was  out. 

A  happy  month,  for  I  felt  well  for  the  first  time  in  two 
years.  I  knew  it  would  n't  last,  but  enjoyed  it  heartily 
while  it  did,  and  was  grateful  for  rest  from  pain  and  a 
touch  of  the  old  cheerfulness.  It  was  much  needed  at 

July,  August,  September.  —  Sick.  Holiday  soon  over. 
Too  much  company  and  care  and  change  of  climate 
upset  the  poor  nerves  again.  Dear  Uncle  S.  J.  May 
died ;  our  best  friend  for  years.  Peace  to  his  ashes. 
He  leaves  a  sweeter  memory  behind  him  than  any  man 
I  know.  Poor  Marmee  is  the  last  of  her  family  now. 

October.  —  Decided  to  go  to  B. ;  Concord  is  so  hard 
for  me,  with  its  dampness  and  worry.  Get  two  girls  to 

260  Loiiisa  May  Alcott. 

do  the  work,  and  leave  plenty  of  money  and  go  to 
Beacon  Street  to  rest  and  try  to  get  well  that  I  may 
work.  A  lazy  life,  but  it  seemed  to  suit ;  and  anything 
is  better  than  the  invalidism  I  hate  worse  than  death. 

Bones  ached  less,  and  I  gave  up  morphine,  as  sun- 
shine, air,  and  quiet  made  sleep  possible  without  it.  Saw 
people,  pictures,  plays,  and  read  all  I  could,  but  did  not 
enjoy  much,  for  the  dreadful  weariness  of  nerves  makes 
even  pleasure  hard. 

November.  —  May  sent  pleasant  letters  and  some  fine 
copies  of  Turner.  She  decides  to  come  home,  as  she 
feels  she  is  needed  as  I  give  out.  Marmee  is  feeble, 
Nan  has  her  boys  and  her  sorrow,  and  one  strong  head 
and  hand  is  wanted  at  home.  A  year  and  a  half  of  holi- 
day is  a  good  deal,  and  duty  comes  first  always.  Sorry 
to  call  her  back,  but  her  eyes  are  troublesome,  and 
housework  will  rest  them  and  set  her  up.  Then  she  can 
go  again  when  I  am  better,  for  I  don't  want  her  to  be 
thwarted  in  her  work  more  than  just  enough  to  make 
her  want  it  very  much. 

On  the  1 9th  she  came.  Well,  happy,  and  full  of  sen- 
sible plans.  A  lively  time  enjoying  the  cheerful  element 
she  always  brings  into  the  house.  Piles  of  pictures, 
merry  adventures,  and  interesting  tales  of  the  fine  Lon- 
don lovers. 

Kept  my  thirty-ninth  and  Father's  seventy-second 
birthday  in  the  old  way. 

Thanksgiving  dinner  at  Pratt  Farm.  All  well  and  all 
together.  Much  to  give  thanks  for. 

December.  —  Enjoyed  my  quiet,  sunny  room  very 
much ;  and  this  lazy  life  seems  to  suit  me,  for  I  am 
better,  mind  and  body.  All  goes  well  at  home,  with 
May  to  run  the  machine  in  her  cheery,  energetic  style, 
and  amuse  Marmee  and  Nan  with  gay  histories.  Had  a 

Europe.  261 

furnace  put  in,  and  all  enjoyed  the  new  climate.  No 
more  rheumatic  fevers  and  colds,  with  picturesque  open 
fires.  Mother  is  to  be  cosey  if  money  can  do  it.  She 
seems  to  be  now,  and  my  long-cherished  dream  has  come 
true ;  for  she  sits  in  a  pleasant  room,  with  no  work,  no 
care,  no  poverty  to  worry,  but  peace  and  comfort  all 
about  her,  and  children  glad  and  able  to  stand  between 
trouble  and  her.  Thank  the  Lord  !  I  like  to  stop  and 
"  remember  my  mercies."  Working  and  waiting  for  them 
makes  them  very  welcome. 

Went  to  the  ball  for  the  Grand  Duke  Alexis.  A  fine 
sight,  and  the  big  blonde  boy  the  best  of  all.  Would 
dance  with  the  pretty  girls,  and  leave  the  Boston  dowa- 
gers and  their  diamonds  in  the  lurch. 

To  the  Radical  Club,  where  the  philosophers  mount 
their  hobbies  and  prance  away  into  time  and  space,  while 
we  gaze  after  them  and  try  to  look  wise. 

A  merry  Christmas  at  home.  Tree  for  the  boys, 
family  dinner,  and  frolic  in  the  evening. 

A  varied,  but  on  the  whole  a  good  year,  in  spite  of 
pain.  Last  Christmas  we  were  in  Rome,  mourning  for 
John.  What  will  next  Christmas  bring  forth  ?  I  have  no 
ambition  now  but  to  keep  the  family  comfortable  and  not 
ache  any  more.  Pain  has  taught  me  patience,  I  hope,  if 
nothing  more. 

January,  1872.  —  Roberts  Brothers  paid  $4,400  as  six 
months'  receipts  for  the  books.  A  fine  New  Year's  gift. 
S.  E.  S.  invested  $3,000,  and  the  rest  I  put  in  the  bank 
for  family  needs.  Paid  for  the  furnace  and  all  the  bills. 
What  bliss  it  is  to  be  able  to  do  that  and  ask  no  help  ! 

•  •••••••• 

Mysterious  bouquets  came  from  some  unknown  ad- 
mirer or  friend.  Enjoyed  them  very  much,  and  felt 
quite  grateful  and  romantic  as  day  after  day  the  lovely 

262  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

great  nosegays  were  handed  in  by  the  servant  of  the 

February  and  March.  —  At  Mrs.  Stowe's  desire,  wrote 
for  the  "Christian  Union'  an  account  of  our  journey 
through  France,  and  called  it  "  Shawl  Straps."  .  .  . 
Many  calls  and  letters  and  invitations,  but  I  kept  quiet, 
health  being  too  precious  to  risk,  and  sleep  still  hard  to 
get  for  the  brain  that  would  work  instead  of  rest. 

Heard  lectures,  —  Higginson,  Bartol,  Frothingham,  and 
Rabbi  Lilienthal.  Much  talk  about  religion.  I  'd  like 
to  see  a  little  more  really  lived. 

April  and  May.  —  Wrote  another  sketch  for  the  "  In- 
dependent,"—  "A  French  Wedding ;"  and  the  events 
of  my  travels  paid  my  winter's  expenses.  All  is  fish  that 
comes  to  the  literary  net.  Goethe  puts  his  joys  and  sor- 
rows into  poems ;  I  turn  my  adventures  into  bread  and 

•  •••••••• 

June,  1872.  —  Home,  and  begin  a  new  task.  Twenty 
vears  ago  I  resolved  to  make  the  family  independent  if  I 
could.  At  forty  that  is  done.  Debts  all  paid,  even  the 
outlawed  ones,  and  we  have  enough  to  be  comfortable. 
It  has  cost  me  my  health,  perhaps ;  but  as  I  still  live, 
there  is  more  for  me  to  do,  I  suppose. 




Lines  written  by  Louisa  M.  Alcott  on  the  death  of  her  mother. 

MYSTERIOUS  death  I  who  in  a  single  hour 

Life's  gold  can  so  refine, 

And  by  thy  art  divine 
Change  mortal  weakness  to  immortal  power  1 

Bending  beneath  the  weight  of  eighty  years, 

Spent  with  the  noble  strife 

Of  a  victorious  life, 
We  watched  her  fading  heavenward,  through  our  tears. 

But  ere  the  sense  of  loss  our  hearts  had  wrung, 

A  miracle  was  wrought ; 

And  swift  as  happy  thought 
She  lived  again,  —  brave,  beautiful,  and  young. 

Age,  pain,  and  sorrow  dropped  the  veils  they  wore 

And  showed  the  tender  eyes 

Of  angels  in  disguise, 
Whose  discipline  so  patiently  she  bore. 

The  past  years  brought  their  harvest  rich  and  fair  ; 

While  memory  and  love, 

Together,  fondly  wove 
A  golden  garland  for  the  silver  hair. 

1  This  poem  was  first  published  anonymously  in  "  The  Masque 
of  Poets,"  in  1878. 

264  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

How  could  we  mourn  like  those  who  are  bereft, 

When  every  pang  of  grief 

Found  balm  for  its  relief 
In  counting  up  the  treasures  she  had  left  ?  — 

Faith  that  withstood  the  shocks  of  toil  and  time; 

Hope  that  defied  despair  ; 

Patience  that  conquered  care  ; 
And  loyalty,  whose  courage  was  sublime  ; 

The  great  deep  heart  that  was  a  home  for  all,  — 

Just,  eloquent,  r.nd  strong 

In  protect  Against  wrong; 
Wide  charity,  that  knew  no  sin,  no  fall ; 

The  spartan  spirit  that  made  life  so  grand, 

Mating  poor  daily  needs 

\Vith  high,  heroic  deeds, 
That  wrested  happiness  from  Fate's  hard  hand. 

We  thought  to  weep,  but  sing  for  joy  instead, 

Full  of  the  grateful  peace 

That  follows  her  release  ; 
For  nothing  but  the  weary  dust  lies  dead. 

Oh,  noble  woman  !  never  more  a  queen 

Than  in  the  laying  down 

Of  sceptre  and  of  crown 
To  win  a  greater  kingdom,  yet  unseen  : 

Teaching  us  how  to  seek  the  highest  goal, 

To  earn  the  true  success,  — 

To  live,  to  love,  to  bless,  — 
And  make  death  proud  to  take  a  royal  soul. 

THE  history  of  the  next  six  years  offers  little 
variety  of  incident  in  Miss  Alcott's  busy  life. 
She  could  not  work  at  home  in  Concord  as  well  as 
in  some  quiet  lodging  in  Boston,  where  she  was 
more  free  from  interruption  from  visitors;  but  she 
spent  her  summers  with  her  mother,  often  taking 
charge  of  the  housekeeping.  In  1872  she  wrote 
"  Work,"  one  of  her  most  successful  books.  She 

Fa  m  ily  Ch  a  nges .  265 

had  begun  it  some  time  before,  and  originally 
called  it  "  Success."  It  represents  her  own  per- 
sonal experience  more  than  any  other  book.  She 
says  to  a  friend:  "Christie's  adventures  are  many 
of  them  my  own;  Mr.  Power  is  Mr.  Parker;  Mrs. 
Wilkins  is  imaginary,  and  all  the  rest.  This  was 
begun  at  eighteen,  and  never  finished  till  H.  W. 
Beecher  wrote  to  me  for  a  serial  fjr  the  '  Christian 
Union'  in  1872,  and  paid  $3,000  for  it." 

Miss  Alcott  again  sent  T  lay  to  Europe  in  1873 
to  finish  her  studies,  and  herself  continued  writing 
stories  to  pay  the  expense:-  of  the  family.  The 
mother's  serious  illness  weighed  heavily  on  Louisa's 
heart,  and  through  the  summer  of  1873  she  was 
devoted  to  the  invalid,  rejoicing  in  her  partial  re- 
covery, though  sadly  feeling  that  she  would  never 
be  her  bright  energetic  self  again.  Mrs.  Alcott 
was  able,  however,  to  keep  her  birthday  (Octo- 
ber 8)  pleasantly,  and  out  of  this  experience  came 
a  story  called  "  A  Happy  Birthday."  This  little 
tale  paid  for  carriages  for  the  invalid.  It  is  in- 
cluded in  "  Aunt  Jo's  Scrap-Bag." 

Louisa  and  her  mother  decided  to  spend  the 
winter  in  Boston,  while  Mr.  Alcott  was  at  the 
West.  Her  thoughts  dwell  much  upon  her  fath- 
er's life,  and  she  is  not  content  that  he  has  not 
all  the  recognition  and  enjoyment  that  she  would 
gladly  give  him.  She  helps  her  mother  to  perform 
the  sacred  duty  of  placing  a  tablet  on  Colonel 
May's  grave,  and  the  dear  old  lady  recognizes 
that  her  life  has  gone  down  into  the  past,  and 
says,  "  This  is  n't  my  Boston,  and  I  never  want  to 
see  it  any  more." 

266  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Louisa  was  at  this  time  engaged  in  writing  for 
"  St.  Nicholas  "  and  "  The  Independent." 

The  return  of  the  young  artist,  happy  in  her 
success,  brings  brightness  to  the  home-circle.  In 
the  winter  of  1875  Miss  Alcott  takes  her  old  place 
at  the  Bellevue,  where  May  can  have  her  drawing- 
classes.  She  was  herself  ill,  and  the  words,  "  No 
sleep  without  morphine  !  "  tell  the  story  of  nervous 



July,  1872.  —  May  makes  a  lovely  hostess,  and  I  fly 
round  behind  the  scenes,  or  skip  out  of  the  back  win- 
dow when  ordered  out  for  inspection  by  the  inquisitive 
public.  Hard  work  to  keep  things  running  smoothly, 
for  this  sight-seeing  fiend  is  a  new  torment  to  us. 

August.  —  May  goes  to  Clark's  Island  for  rest,  having 
kept  hotel  long  enough.  I  say  "  No,"  and  shut  the 
door.  People  must  learn  that  authors  have  some  rights ; 
I  can't  entertain  a  dozen  a  day,  and  write  the  tales  they 
demand  also.  I  'm  but  a  human  worm,  and  when  walked 
on  must  turn  in  self-defence. 

Reporters  sit  on  the  wall  and  take  notes  ;  artists 
sketch  me  as  I  pick  pears  in  the  garden ;  and  strange 
women  interview  Johnny  as  he  plays  in  the  orchard. 

It  looks  like  impertinent  curiosity  to  me ;  but  it  is 
called  "  fame,"  and  considered  a  blessing  to  be  grateful 
for,  I  find.  Let  'em  try  it. 

September.  —  To  Wolcott,  with  Father  and  Fred.  A 
quaint,  lovely  old  place  is  the  little  house  on  Spindle 
Hill,  where  the  boy  Amos  dreamed  the  dreams  that  have 
come  true  at  last. 

Got  hints  for  my  novel,  "The  Cost  of  an  Idea,"  if  I 
ever  find  time  to  write  it. 

Family  Changes.  267 

Don't  wonder  the  boy  longed  to  climb  those  hills,  and 
see  what  lay  beyond. 

October.  —  Went  to  a  room  in  Allston  Street,  in  a 
quiet,  old-fashioned  house.  I  can't  work  at  home,  and 
need  to  be  alone  to  spin,  like  a  spider. 

Rested  ;  walked  ;  to  the  theatre  now  and  then.  Home 
once  a  week  with  books,  etc.,  for  Marmee  and  Nan. 
Prepared  "  Shawl  Straps  '  for  Roberts. 

November.  —  Forty  on  the  29th.  Got  Father  off  for 
the  West,  all  neat  and  comfortable.  I  enjoyed  every 
penny  spent,  and  had  a  happy  time  packing  his  new 
trunk  with  warm  flannels,  neat  shirts,  gloves,  etc.,  and 
seeing  the  dear  man  go  off  in  a  new  suit,  overcoat,  hat, 
and  all,  like  a  gentleman.  We  both  laughed  over  the 
pathetic  old  times  with  tears  in  our  eyes,  and  I  reminded 
him  of  the  "  poor  as  poverty,  but  serene  as  heaven  ' 

Something  to  do  came  just  as  I  was  trying  to  see  what 
to  take  up,  for  work  is  my  salvation.  H.  W.  Beecher 
sent  one  of  the  editors  of  the  "  Christian  Union  "  to  ask 
for  a  serial  story.  They  have  asked  before,  and  offered 
$2,000,  which  I  refused ;  now  they  offered  $3,000,  and 
I  accepted. 

Got  out  the  old  manuscript  of  "  Success,"  and  called  it 
"  Work."  Fired  up  the  engine,  and  plunged  into  a  vortex, 
with  many  doubts  about  getting  out.  Can't  work  slowly ; 
the  thing  possesses  me,  and  I  must  obey  till  it 's  done. 
One  thousand  dollars  was  sent  as  a  seal  on  the  bargain, 
so  I  was  bound,  and  sat  at  the  oar  like  a  galley-slave. 

F.  wanted  eight  little  tales,  and  offered  $35  apiece ; 
used  to  pay  $10.  Such  is  fame  !  At  odd  minutes  I 
wrote  the  short  ones,  and  so  paid  my  own  expenses. 
"  Shawl  Straps,"  Scrap-Bag,  No.  2,  came  out,  and 
went  well. 

268  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Great  Boston  fire ;  up  all  night.  Very  splendid  and 
terrible  sight. 

December.  —  Busy  with  "Work."  Write  three  pages 
at  once  on  impression  paper,  as  Beecher,  Roberts,  and 
Low  of  London  all  want  copy  at  once. 

[This  was  the  cause  of  the  paralysis  of  my  thumb,  which 
disabled  me  for  the  rest  of  my  life.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

Nan  and  the  boys  came  to  visit  me,  and  break  up  the 
winter.  Rested  a  little,  and  played  with  them. 

Father  very  busy  and  happy.  On  his  birthday  had 
a  gold-headed  cane  given  him.  He  is  appreciated  out 

During  these  western  trips,  Mr.  Alcott  found 
that  his  daughter's  fame  added  much  to  the 
warmth  of  his  reception.  On  his  return  he  loved 
to  tell  how  he  was  welcomed  as  the  "  grandfather 
of*  Little  Women.'  When  he  visited  schools,  he 
delighted  the  young  audiences  by  satisfying  their 
curiosity  as  to-  the  author  of  their  favorite  book, 
and  the  truth  of  the  characters  and  circumstances 

described  in  it. 

BOSTON,  1872. 

DEAR  MARMEE,  —  Had  a  very  transcendental  day  yes- 
terday, and  at  night  my  head  was  "  swelling  wisibly  "  with 
the  ideas  cast  into  it. 

The  club  was  a  funny  mixture  of  rabbis  and  weedy 
old  ladies,  the  "  oversoul "  and  oysters.  Papa  and  B. 
flew  clean  out  of  sight  like  a  pair  of  Platonic  balloons, 
and  we  tried  to  follow,  but  could  n't. 

In  the  P.M.  went  to  R.  W.  E.'s  reading.  All  the  liter- 
ary birds  were  out  in  full  feather.  This  "  'umble  "  worm 
was  treated  with  distinguished  condescension.  Dr.  B.  gave 
me  his  noble  hand  to  press,  and  murmured  compliments 

Family  Changes.  269 

with  the  air  of  a  bishop  bestowing  a  benediction.     Dear 
B.  beamed  upon  me  from  the  depths  of  his  funny  little 
cloak  and    said,  "We  are  getting  on  well,  ain't  we?' 
W.  bowed  his  Jewish  head,  and  rolled  his  fine  eye  at  me. 
'  Several  dreadful  women  purred  about  me,  and  I  fled. 

M.  said  what  I  liked,  —  that  he  'd  sent  my  works  to 
his  mother,  and  the  good  old  lady  told  him  to  tell  me 
that  she  could  n't  do  a  stroke  of  work,  but  just  sat  and 
read  'em  right  through ;  she  wished  she  was  young  so  as 
to  have  a  long  life  in  which  to  keep  on  enjoying  such 
books.  The  peacock  liked  that. 

I  have  paid  all  my  own  expenses  out  of  the  money 
earned  by  my  little  tales ;  so  I  have  not  touched  the 
family  income. 

Did  n't  mean  to  write ;  but  it  has  been  an  expensive 
winter,  and  my  five  hundred  has  made  me  all  right.  The 
$500  I  lent  K.  makes  a  difference  in  the  income ;  but  I 
could  not  refuse  her,  she  was  so  kind  in  the  old  hard 

At  the  reading  a  man  in  front  of  me  sat  listening  and 
knitting  his  brows  for  a  time,  but  had  to  give  it  up  and 
go  to  sleep.  After  it  was  over  some  one  said  to  him, 
"  Well,  what  do  you  think  of  it?  "  "  It's  all  very  fine  I 
have  no  doubt ;  but  I  'm  blessed  if  I  can  understand  a 
word  of  it,"  was  the  reply.  .  .  . 

The  believers  glow  when  the  oracle  is  stuck,  rustle  and 
beam  when  he  is  audible,  and  nod  and  smile  as  if  they 
understood  perfectly  when  he  murmurs  under  the  desk  ! 
We  are  a  foolish  set  ! 


January,  1873.  —  Getting  on  well  with  "  Work  ;  "  have 
to  go  slowly  now  for  fear  of  a  break-down.  All  well  at 

270  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

A  week  at  Newport  with  Miss  Jane  Stewart.  Dinners, 
balls,  calls,  etc.  Saw  Higginson  and  "  H.  H."  Soon 
tired  of  gayety,  and  glad  to  get  home  to  my  quiet  den 
and  pen. 

Roberts  Brothers  paid  me  $2,022  for  books.  S.  E.  S. 
invested  most  of  it,  with  the  $1,000  F.  sent.  Gave  C.  M. 
$100,  —  a  thank-offering  for  my  success.  I  like  to  help 
the  class  of  "  silent  poor  "  to  which  we  belonged  for  so 
many  years,  —  needy,  but  respectable,  and  forgotten  be- 
cause too  proud  to  beg.  Work  difficult  to  find  for  such 
people,  and  life  made  very  hard  for  want  of  a  little  money 
to  ease  the  necessary  needs. 

February  and  March.  —  Anna  very  ill  with  pneumonia ; 
home  to  nurse  her.  Father  telegraphed  to  come  home, 
as  we  thought  her  dying.  She  gave  me  her  boys ;  but 
the  dear  saint  got  well,  and  kept  the  lads  for  herself. 
Thank  God  ! 

Back  to  my  work  with  what  wits  nursing  left  me. 

Had  Johnny  for  a  week,  to  keep  all  quiet  at  home. 
Enjoyed  the  sweet  little  soul  very  much,  and  sent  him 
back  much  better. 

Finished  "  Work,"  —  twenty  chapters.  Not  what  it 
should  be,  —  too  many  interruptions.  Should  like  to  do 
one  book  in  peace,  and  see  if  it  would  n't  be  good. 

April. — The  job  being  done  I  went  home  to  take 
May's  place.  Gave  her  $1,000,  and  sent  her  to  London 
for  a  year  of  study.  She  sailed  on  the  26th,  brave  and 
happy  and  hopeful.  I  felt  that  she  needed  it,  and  was 
glad  to  be  able  to  help  her. 

I  spent  seven  months  in  Boston ;  wrote  a  book  and 
ten  tales;  earned  $3,250  by  my  pen,  and  am  satisfied 
with  my  winter's  work. 

May,  —  D.  F.  wanted  a  dozen  little  tales,  and  agreed 
to  pay  $50  apiece,  if  I  give  up  other  things  for  this. 

Family  Changes.  271 

Said  I  would,  as  I  can  do  two  a  day,  and  keep  house  be- 
tween times.  Cleaned  and  grubbed,  and  didn't  mind 
the  change.  Let  head  rest,  and  heels  and  feet  do  the 

Cold  and  dull ;  but  the  thought  of  May  free  and  happy 
was  my  comfort  as  I  messed  about. 

June  and  July.  —  Settled  the  servant  question  by  get- 
ting a  neat  American  woman  to  cook  and  help  me  with 
the  housework. 

Peace  fell  upon  our  troubled  souls,  and  all  went  well. 
Good  meals,  tidy  house,  cheerful  service,  and  in  the  p.  M. 
an  intelligent  young  person  to  read  and  sew  with  us. 

It  was  curious  how  she  came  to  us.  She  had  taught 
and  sewed,  and  was  tired,  and  wanted  something  else  ; 
decided  to  try  for  a  housekeeper's  place,  but  happened 
to  read  "  Work,"  and  thought  she  'd  do  as  Christie  did, 

—  take  anything  that  came. 

I  was  the  first  who  answered  her  advertisement,  and 
when  she  found  I  wrote  the  book,  she  said,  "  I  '11  go  and 
see  if  Miss  A.  practises  as  she  preaches." 

She  found  I  did,  and  we  had  a  good  time  together. 
My  new  helper  did  so  well  I  took  pale  Johnny  to  the 
seaside  for  a  week ;  but  was  sent  for  in  haste,  as  poor 
Marmee  was  very  ill.  Mental  bewilderment  came  after 
one  of  her  heart  troubles  (the  dropsy  affected  the  brain), 
and  for  three  weeks  we  had  a  sad  time.  Father  and  I 
took  care  of  her,  and  my  good  A.  S.  kept  house  nicely 
and  faithfully  for  me. 

Marmee  slowly  came  back  to  herself,  but  sadly  feeble, 

—  never  to   be  our  brave,  energetic  leader  any  more. 
She  felt  it,  and  it  was  hard  to  convince  her  that  there  was 
no  need  of  her  doing  anything  but  rest. 

August,  September,  October.  —  Mother  improved  stead- 
ily. Father  went  to  the  Alcott  festival  in  Walcott,  A. 

272  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

and  boys  to  Conway  for  a  month ;  and  it  did  them  all 
much  good. 

I  had  quiet  days  with  Marmee ;  drove  with  her,  and 
had  the  great  pleasure  of  supplying  all  her  needs  and 

May  busy  and  happy  in  London.  A  merry  time  on 
Mother's  birthday,  October  8.  All  so  glad  to  have  her 
still  here  ;  for  it  seemed  as  if  we  were  to  lose  her. 

Made  a  little  story  of  it  for  F.,  —  "  A  Happy  Birth- 
day,"—  and  spent  the  $50  in  carriages  for  her. 

November  and  December.  —  Decided  that  it  was  best 
not  to  try  a  cold,  lonely  winter  in  C.,  but  go  to  B.  with 
Mother,  Nan,  and  boys,  and  leave  Father  free  for  the 

Took  sunny  rooms  at  the  South  End,  near  the  Park, 
so  the  lads  could  play  out  and  Marmee  walk.  She  en- 
joyed the  change,  and  sat  at  her  window  watching  people, 
horse-cars,  and  sparrows  with  great  interest.  Old  friends 
came  to  see  her,  and  she  was  happy.  Found  a  nice 
school  for  the  boys ;  and  Nan  enjoyed  her  quiet  days. 

January,  1874.  —  Mother  quite  ill  this  month.  Dr. 
Wesselhoeft  does  his  best  for  the  poor  old  body,  now 
such  a  burden  to  her.  The  slow  decline  has  begun, 
and  she  knows  it,  having  nursed  her  mother  to  the 
same  end. 

Father  disappointed  and  rather  sad,  to  be  left  out  of 
so  much  that  he  would  enjoy  and  should  be  asked  to 
help  and  adorn.  A  little  more  money,  a  pleasant  house 
and  time  to  attend  to  it,  and  I  'd  bring  all  the  best  people 
to  see  and  entertain  him.  When  I  see  so  much  twaddle 
going  on  I  wonder  those  who  can  don't  get  up  something 
better,  and  have  really  good  things. 

When  I  had  the  youth  I  had  no  money ;  now  I  have 
the  money  I  have  no  time  ;  and  when  I  get  the  time,  if 

Fa  m  ily  CJi  a  nges .  273 

I  ever  do,  I  shall  have  no  health  to  enjoy  life.  I  suppose 
it 's  the  discipline  I  need  ;  but  it 's  rather  hard  to  love  the 
things  I  do  and  see  them  go  by  because  duty  chains  me 
to  my  galley.  If  I  come  into  port  at  last  with  all  sail  set 
that  will  be  reward  perhaps. 

Life  always  was  a  puzzle  to  me,  and  gets  more  mysteri- 
ous as  I  go  on.  I  shall  find  it  out  by  and  by  and  see 
that  it 's  all  right,  if  I  can  only  keep  brave  and  patient  to 
the  end. 

May  still  in  London  painting  Turners,  and  doing  pretty 
panels  as  "  pot-boilers."  They  sell  well,  and  she  is  a 
thrifty  child.  Good  luck  to  our  mid-summer  girl. 

February.  —  Father  has  several  conversations  at  the 
Clubs  and  Societies  and  Divinity  School.  No  one  pays 
anything ;  but  they  seem  glad  to  listen.  There  ought  to 
be  a  place  for  him. 

Nan  busy  with  her  boys,  and  they  doing  well  at  school, 
—  good,  gay,  and  intelligent ;  a  happy  mother  and  most 
loving  little  sons. 

I  wrote  two  tales,  and  got  $200.  Saw  Charles  Kings- 
ley,  —  a  pleasant  man.  His  wife  has  Alcott  relations, 
and  likes  my  books.  Asked  us  to  come  and  see  him 
in  England ;  is  to  bring  his  daughters  to  Concord  by 
and  by. 

March.  —  May  came  home  with  a  portfolio  full  of  fine 
work.  Must  have  worked  like  a  busy  bee  to  have  done 
so  much. 

Very  happy  in  her  success ;  for  she  has  proved  her 
talent,  having  copied  Turner  so  well  that  Ruskin  (meet- 
ing her  in  the  National  Gallery  at  work)  told  her  that 
she  had  "  caught  Turner's  spirit  wonderfully."  She  has 
begun  to  copy  Nature,  and  done  well.  Lovely  sketches 
of  the  cloisters  in  Westminster  Abbey,  and  other  charm- 
ing things. 


274  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

I  write  a  story  for  all  my  men,  and  make  up  the  $1,000 
I  planned  to  earn  by  my  "  pot-boilers '  before  we  go 
back  to  C. 

A  tablet  to  Grandfather  May  is  put  in  Stone  Chapel, 
and  one  Sunday  A.  M.  we  take  Mother  to  see  it.  A 
pathetic  sight  to  see  Father  walk  up  the  broad  aisle  with 
the  feeble  old  wife  on  his  arm  as  they  went  to  be  married 
nearly  fifty  years  ago.  Mother  sat  alone  in  the  old  pew 
a  little  while  and  sung  softly  the  old  hymns ;  for  it  was 
early,  and  only  the  sexton  there.  He  asked  who  she  was, 
and  said  his  father  was  sexton  in  Grandfather's  time. 

Several  old  ladies  came  in  and  knew  Mother.  She 
broke  down  thinking  of  the  time  when  she  and  her  mother 
and  sisters  and  father  and  brothers  all  went  to  church  to- 
gether, and  we  took  her  home  saying,  "This  isn't  my 
Boston ;  all  my  friends  are  gone ;  I  never  want  to  see  it 
any  more." 

[She  never  did.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

April  and  May.  —  Back  to  Concord,  after  May  and  I 
had  put  all  in  fine  order  and  made  the  old  house  lovely 
with  her  pictures.  When  all  were  settled,  with  May  to 
keep  house,  I  went  to  B.  for  rest,  and  took  a  room  in 
Joy  Street. 

The  Elgin  Watch  Company  offered  me  a  gold  watch  or 
$100  for  a  tale.  Chose  the  money,  and  wrote  the  story 
"  My  Rococo  Watch  "  J  for  them. 

October.  —  Took  two  nice  rooms  at  the  Hotel  Bellevue 
for  the  winter ;  May  to  use  one  for  her  classes.  Tried  to 
work  on  my  book,  but  was  in  such  pain  could  not  do 
much.  Got  no  sleep  without  morphine.  Tried  old  Dr. 
Hewett,  who  was  sure  he  could  cure  the  woe.  .  .  . 

November.  —  Funny  time  with  the  publishers  about  the 

1  In  Spinning-Wheel  Stories. 

Family  Changes.  275 

tale ;  for  all  wanted  it  at  once,  and  each  tried  to  outbid 
the  other  for  an  unwritten  story.  I  rather  enjoyed  it,  and 
felt  important  with  Roberts,  Low,  and  Scribner  all  clam- 
oring for  my  "  'umble  "  works.  No  peddling  poor  little 
manuscripts  now,  and  feeling  rich  with  $10.  The  golden 
goose  can  sell  her  eggs  for  a  good  price,  if  she  is  n't  killed 
by  too  much  driving. 

December.  —  Better  and  busier  than  last  month. 

All  well  at  home,  and  Father  happy  among  his  kind 
Westerners.  Finish  "  Eight  Cousins,"  and  get  ready  to 
do  the  temperance  tale,  for  F.  offers  $700  for  six 
chapters,  —  "  Silver  Pitchers." 

January,  1875.  —  .  .  .  Father  flourishing  about  the 
Western  cities,  "  riding  in  Louisa's  chariot,  and  adored 
as  the  grandfather  of  '  Little  Women,'  he  says. 

February.  —  Finish  my  tale  and  go  to  Vassar  College 
on  a  visit.  See  M.  M.,  talk  with  four  hundred  girls,  write 
in  stacks  of  albums  and  school-books,  and  kiss  every  one 
who  asks  me.  Go  to  New  York ;  am  rather  lionized, 
and  run  away ;  but  things  look  rather  jolly,  and  I  may 
try  a  winter  there  some  time,  as  I  need  a  change  and 
new  ideas. 

March.  —  Home  again,  getting  ready  for  the  centen- 
nial fuss. 

April.  —  On  the  ipth  a  grand  celebration.  General 
break-down,  owing  to  an  unwise  desire  to  outdo  all  the 
other  towns ;  too  many  people.  .  .  . 

Miss  Alcott  was  very  much  interested  in  the 
question  of  Woman  Suffrage,  and  exerted  herself 
to  get  up  a  meeting  in  Concord.  The  subject  was 
then  very  unpopular,  and  there  was  an  ill-bred 
effort  to  destroy  the  meeting  by  noise  and  riot. 
Although  not  fond  of  speaking  in  public,  she 

276  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

always  put  herself  bravely  on  the  side  of  the  un- 
popular cause,  and  lent  to  it  all  the  argument  of 
her  heroic  life.  When  Mrs.  Livermore  lectured 
at  Concord,  Miss  Alcott  sat  up  all  night  talking 
with  her  on  the  great  question.  She  had  an  oppor- 
tunity of  trying  which  was  most  exhausting,  abuse 
or  admiration,  when  she  went  to  a  meeting  of  the 
Women's  Congress  at  Syracuse,  in  October.  She 
was  introduced  to  the  audience  by  Mrs.  Liver- 
more,  and  the  young  people  crowded  about  her 
like  bees  about  a  honeycomb.  She  was  waylaid 
in  the  streets,  petitioned  for  autographs,  kissed  by 
gushing  young  maidens,  and  made  emphatically 
the  lion  of  the  hour.  It  was  all  so  genial  and 
spontaneous,  that  she  enjoyed  the  fun.  No  amount 
of  adulation  ever  affected  the  natural  simplicity  of 
her  manners.  She  neither  despised  nor  overrated 
her  fame  ;  but  was  glad  of  it  as  a  proof  of  suc- 
cess in  what  she  was  ever  aiming  to  do.  She  spent 
a  few  weeks  in  New  York  enjoying  the  gay  and 
literary  society  which  was  freely  opened  to  her ; 
but  finding  most  satisfaction  in  visiting  the 
Tombs,  Newsboys'  Home,  and  Randall's  Island, 
for  she  liked  these  things  better  than  parties  and 


June,  July,  August,  1875.  —  Kept  house  at  home,  with 
two  Irish  incapables  to  trot  after,  and  ninety-two  guests 
in  one  month  to  entertain.  Fame  is  an  expensive  lux- 
ury. I  can  do  without  it.  This  is  my  worst  scrape,  I 
think.  I  asked  for  bread,  and  got  a  stone,  —  in  the 
shape  of  a  pedestal. 

Family  Changes.  277 

September  and  October,  1875.  —  I  g°  to  Woman's 
Congress  in  Syracuse,  and  see  Niagara.  Funny  time 
with  the  girls. 

Write  loads  of  autographs,  dodge  at  the  theatre,  and 
am  kissed  to  death  by  gushing  damsels.  One  energetic 
lady  grasped  my  hand  in  the  crowd,  exclaiming,  "  If  you 
ever  come  to  Oshkosh,  your  feet  will  not  be  allowed  to 
touch  the  ground  :  you  will  be  borne  in  the  arms  of  the 
people!  Will  you  come? ';  "Never,"  responded  Miss 
A.,  trying  to  look  affable,  and  dying  to  laugh  as  the  good 
soul  worked  my  arm  like  a  pump-handle,  and  from  the 
gallery  generations  of  girls  were  looking  on.  "  This, 
this,  is  fame  ! ' 

November,  December.  —  Take  a  room  at  Bath  Hotel, 
New  York,  and  look  about  me.  Miss  Sally  Holly  is  here, 
and  we  go  about  together.  She  tells  me  much  of  her 
life  among  the  freedmen,  and  Mother  is  soon  deep  in 
barrels  of  clothes,  food,  books,  etc.,  for  Miss  A.  to  take 
back  with  her. 

See  many  people,  and  am  very  gay  for  a  country-mouse. 
Society  unlike  either  London  or  Boston. 

Go  to  Sorosis,  and  to  Mrs.  Botta's,  O.  B.  Frothing- 
ham's,  Miss  Booth's,  and  Mrs.  Croly's  receptions. 

Visit  the  Tombs,  Newsboys'  Home,  and  Randall's 
Island  on  Christmas  Day  with  Mrs.  Gibbons.  A  mem- 
orable day.  Make  a  story  of  it.  Enjoy  these  things 
more  than  the  parties  and  dinners. 

To  Mrs.  Dodge. 

NEW  YORK,  Oct.  5,  1875. 

DEAR  MRS.  DODGE,  —  So  far,  New  York  seems  invit- 
ing, though  I  have  not  seen  or  done  much  but  "  gawk 
round  "  as  the  country  folks  do.  I  have  seen  Niagara,  and 

278  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

enjoyed  my  vacation  very  much,  especially  the  Woman's 
Congress  in  Syracuse.  I  was  made  a  member,  so  have 
the  honor  to  sign  myself, 

Yours  truly,  L.  M.  ALCOTT,  M.  C. 

To  her  Father. 

NEW  YORK,  Nov.  26,  1875. 

DEAR  SEVENTY-SIX,  —  As  I  have  nothing  else  to  send 
you  on  our  joint  birthday,  I  '11  despatch  a  letter  about 
some  of  the  people  I  have  lately  seen  in  whom  you  take 
an  interest. 

Tuesday  we  heard  Gough  on  "  Blunders,"  and  it  was 
very  good,  —  both  witty  and  wise,  earnest  and  sensible. 
Wednesday  eve  to  Mr.  Frothingham's  for  his  Fraternity 
Club  meeting.  Pleasant  people.  Ellen  F. ;  Abby  Sage 
Richardson,  a  very  lovely  woman ;  young  Putnam  and 
wife ;  Mrs.  Stedman ;  Mattie  G.  and  her  spouse,  Dr.  B., 
who  read  a  lively  story  of  Mormon  life ;  Mrs.  Dodge ; 
O.  Johnson  and  wife,  and  many  more  whose  names  I 

After  the  story  the  given  subject  for  discussion  was 
brought  up,  —  "  Conformity  and  Noncomformity."  Mr. 
B.,  a  promising  young  lawyer,  led  one  side,  Miss  B.  the 
other,  and  Mr.  F.  was  in  the  chair.  It  was  very  lively ; 
and  being  called  upon,  I  piped  up,  and  went  in  for  non- 
conformity when  principle  was  concerned.  Got  patted 
on  the  head  for  my  remarks,  and  did  n't  disgrace  my- 
self except  by  getting  very  red  and  talking  fast. 

Ellen  F.  was  very  pleasant,  and  asked  much  about 
May.  Proudly  I  told  of  our  girl's  achievements,  and  E. 
hoped  she  would  come  to  New  York.  Mrs.  Richardson 
was  presented,  and  we  had  some  agreeable  chat.  She 
is  a  great  friend  of  O.  B.  F.,  and  is  lecturing  here  on 

Family  Changes.  279 

"  Literature."  Shall  go  and  hear  her,  as  she  is  coming 
to  see  me. 

O.  B.  F.  was  as  polished  and  clear  and  cool  and  witty 
as  usual ;  most  gracious  to  the  "  'umble  "  Concord  worm  ; 
and  Mrs.  F.  asked  me  to  come  and  see  them. 

Yesterday  took  a  drive  with  Sally  H.  in  Central  Park 
as  it  was  fine,  and  she  had  no  fun  on  her  Thanksgiving. 
I  dined  at  Mrs.  Botta's,  for  she  kindly  came  and  asked 
me.  Had  a  delightful  time,  and  felt  as  if  I  'd  been  to 
Washington  ;  for  Professor  Byng,  a  German  ex-consul, 
was  there,  full  of  Capitol  gossip  about  Sumner  and  all 
the  great  beings  that  there  do  congregate.  Mr.  Botta 
you  know,  —  a  handsome,  long-haired  Italian,  very  culti- 
vated and  affable. 

Also  about  Lord  H.,  whom  B.  thought  "  an  amiable 
old  woman,"  glad  to  say  pretty  things,  and  fond  of  being 
lionized.  Byng  knew  Rose  and  Una,  and  asked  about 
them  ;  also  told  funny  tales  of  Victor  Emmanuel  and  his 
Court,  and  queer  adventures  in  Greece,  where  he,  B., 
was  a  consul,  or  something  official.  It  was  a  glimpse 
into  a  new  sort  of  world ;  and  as  the  man  was  very 
accomplished,  elegant,  and  witty,  I  enjoyed  it  much. 

We  had  music  later,  and  saw  some  fine  pictures. 
Durant  knew  Miss  Thackeray,  J.  Ingelow,  and  other 
English  people  whom  I  did,  so  we  had  a  good  dish  of 
gossip  with  Mrs.  Botta,  while  the  others  talked  three  or 
four  languages  at  once. 

It  is  a  delightful  house,  and  I  shall  go  as  often  as  I 
may,  for  it  is  the  sort  of  thing  I  like  much  better  than 
B.  H.  and  champagne. 

To-night  we  go  to  hear  Bradlaugh  ;  to-morrow,  a  new 
play ;  Sunday,  Frothingham  and  Bellows ;  and  Monday, 
Mrs.  Richardson  and  Shakespeare. 

But  it  isn't  all  play,  I  assure  you.     I  'm  a  thrifty  but- 

2 So  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

terfly,  and  have  written  three  stories.  The  "  G."  has 
paid  for  the  little  Christmas  tale  ;  the  "  I."  has  "  Letty's 
Tramp  ; '  and  my  "  girl  paper  ':  for  "  St.  Nick  '  is 
about  ready.  Several  other  papers  are  waiting  for  tales, 
so  I  have  a  ballast  of  work  to  keep  me  steady  in  spite  of 
much  fun. 

Mr.  Powell  has  been  twice  to  see  me,  and  we  go  to 
visit  the  charities  of  New  York  next  week.  I  like  to  see 
both  sides,  and  generally  find  the  busy  people  most 

So  far  I  like  New  York  very  much,  and  feel  so  well  I 
shall  stay  on  till  I  'm  tired  of  it.  People  begin  to  tell 
me  how  much  better  I  look  than  when  I  came,  and 
I  have  not  an  ache  to  fret  over.  This,  after  such  a  long 
lesson  in  bodily  ails,  is  a  blessing  for  which  I  am  duly 

Hope  all  goes  well  with  you,  and  that  I  shall  get  a  line 
now  and  then.  I  '11  keep  them  for  you  to  bind  up  by 
and  by  instead  of  mine.  .  .  . 

We  can  buy  a  carriage  some  other  time,  and  a  barn 
likewise,  and  a  few  other  necessities  of  life.  Rosa  has 
proved  such  a  good  speculation  we  shall  dare  to  let  May 
venture  another  when  the  ship  comes  in.  I  am  glad  the 
dear  "rack-a-bones ':  is  a  comfort  to  her  mistress,  only 
don't  let  her  break  my  boy's  bones  by  any  antics  when 
she  feels  her  oats. 

I  suppose  you  are  thinking  of  Wilson  just  now,  and 
his  quiet  slipping  away  to  the  heavenly  council  chambers 
where  the  good  senators  go.  Rather  like  Sumner's  end, 
was  n't  it  ?  No  wife  or  children,  only  men  and  servants. 
Wilson  was  such  a  genial,  friendly  soul  I  should  have 
thought  he  would  have  felt  the  loneliness  very  much. 
Hope  if  he  left  any  last  wishes  his  mates  will  carry  them 
out  faithfully.  .  .  . 

Family  Changes.  281 

Now,  dear  Plato,  the  Lord  bless  you,  and  keep  you 
serene  and  happy  for  as  many  years  as  He  sees  fit,  and 
me  likewise,  to  be  a  comfort  as  well  as  a  pride  to  you. 

Ever  your  loving  FORTY-THREE. 

To  her  Nephews. 

NEW  YORK,  Dec.  4,  1875. 

DEAR  FRED  AND  DONNY,  —  We  went  to  see  the  news- 
boys, and  I  wish  you  'd  been  with  us,  it  was  so  interest- 
ing.    A  nice   big   house   has  been  built  for  them,  with 
dining-room  and  kitchen  on  the  first  floor,  bath-rooms 
and  school-room  next,  two  big  sleeping-places,  —  third  and 
fourth  stories,  —  and  at  the  top  a  laundry  and  gymnasium. 
We  saw  all  the  tables  set  for  breakfast,  —  a  plate  and 
bowl  for  each,  —  and  in  the  kitchen  great  kettles,  four 
times  as  big  as  our  copper  boiler,  for  tea  and  coffee, 
soup,  and  meat.     They  have  bread  and  meat  and  coffee 
for  breakfast,  and  bread  and  cheese  and  tea  for  supper, 
and  get  their  own  dinners  out.     School  was  just   over 
when  we  got  there,  and  one  hundred  and  eighty  boys 
were  in  the  immense  room  with  desks  down  the  middle, 
and  all  around  the  walls  were  little  cupboards  numbered. 
Each  boy  on  coming  in  gives  his  name,  pays  six  cents, 
gets  a  key,  and  puts  away  his  hat,  books,  and  jacket  (if 
he  has  'em)  in  his  own  cubby  for  the  night.     They  pay 
five  cents  for  supper,  and  schooling,  baths,  etc.,  are  free. 
They  were  a  smart-looking  set,  larking  round  in  shirts 
and  trousers,  barefooted,  but  the  faces  were  clean,  and 
the  heads  smooth,  and  clothes  pretty  decent ;  yet  they 
support  themselves,  for  not  one  of  them  has  any  parents 
or  home  but  this.     One  little  chap,  only  six,  was  trotting 
round  as  busy  as  a  bee,  locking  up  his  small  shoes  and 
ragged  jacket  as  if  they  were  great  treasures.     I  asked 

282  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

about  little  Pete,  and  the  man  told  us  his  brother,  only 
nine,  supported  him  and  took  care  of  him  entirely ;  and 
would  n't  let  Pete  be  sent  away  to  any  home,  because  he 
wished  to  have  "  his  family  "  with  him. 

Think  of  that,  Fred  !  How  would  it  seem  to  be  all 
alone  in  a  big  city,  with  no  mamma  to  cuddle  you ;  no 
two  grandpa's  houses  to  take  you  in ;  not  a  penny  but 
what  you  earned,  and  Donny  to  take  care  of  ?  Could 
you  do  it?  Nine-year-old  Patsey  does  it  capitally;  buys 
Pete's  clothes,  pays  for  his  bed  and  supper,  and  puts 
pennies  in  the  savings-bank.  There  's  a  brave  little  man 
for  you  !  I  wanted  to  see  him  •  but  he  is  a  newsboy, 
and  sells  late  papers,  because,  though  harder  work,  it 
pays  better,  and  the  coast  is  clear  for  those  who  do  it. 

The  savings-bank  was  a  great  table  all  full  of  slits,  each 
one  leading  to  a  little  place  below  and  numbered  outside, 
so  each  boy  knew  his  own.  Once  a  month  the  bank  is 
opened,  and  the  lads  take  out  what  they  like,  or  have  it 
invested  in  a  big  bank  for  them  to  have  when  they  find 
homes  out  West,  as  many  do,  and  make  good  farmers. 
One  boy  was  putting  in  some  pennies  as  we  looked,  and 
I  asked  how  much  he  had  saved  this  month.  "  Four- 
teen dollars,  ma'am,"  says  the  thirteen-year-older,  proudly 
slipping  in  the  last  cent.  A  prize  of  $3  is  offered  to  the 
lad  who  saves  the  most  in  a  month. 

The  beds  upstairs  were  in  two  immense  rooms,  ever  so 
much  larger  than  our  town  hall,  —  one  hundred  in  one, 
and  one  hundred  and  eighty  in  another,  —  all  narrow 
beds  with  a  blue  quilt,  neat  pillow,  and  clean  sheet. 
They  are  built  in  long  rows,  one  over  another,  and  the 
upper  boy  has  to  climb  up  as  on  board  ship.  I  'd  have 
liked  to  see  one  hundred  and  eighty  all  in  their  "  by-lows  ' 
at  once,  and  I  asked  the  man  if  they  did  n't  train  when 
all  were  in.  "  Lord,  ma'am,  they  're  up  at  five,  poor 

Family  Changes.  283 

little  chaps,  and  are  so  tired  at  night  that  they  drop  off 
right  away.  Now  and  then  some  boy  kicks  up  a  little 
row,  but  we  have  a  watchman,  and  he  soon  settles  'em." 

He  also  told  me  how  that  very  day  a  neat,  smart 
young  man  came  in,  and  said  he  was  one  of  their  boys 
who  went  West  with  a  farmer  only  a  little  while  ago ;  and 
now  he  owned  eighty  acres  of  land,  had  a  good  house, 
and  was  doing  well,  and  had  come  to  New  York  to  find 
his  sister,  and  to  take  her  away  to  live  with  him.  Was  n't 
that  nice  ?  Lots  of  boys  do  as  well.  Instead  of  loafing 
round  the  streets  and  getting  into  mischief,  they  are 
taught  to  be  tidy,  industrious,  and  honest,  and  then  sent 
away  into  the  wholesome  country  to  support  themselves. 

It  was  funny  to  see  'em  scrub  in  the  bath-room,  —  feet 
and  faces,  —  comb  their  hair,  fold  up  their  old  clothes  in 
the  dear  cubbies,  which  make  them  so  happy  because 
they  feel  that  they  own  something. 

The  man  said  every  boy  wanted  one,  even  though  he 
had  neither  shoes  nor  jacket  to  put  in  it ;  but  would  lay 
away  an  old  rag  of  a  cap  or  a  dirty  tippet  with  an  air 
of  satisfaction  fine  to  see.  Some  lads  sat  reading,  and 
the  man  said  they  loved  it  so  they  'd  read  all  night,  if 
allowed.  At  nine  he  gave  the  word,  "  Bed  !  "  and  away 
went  the  lads,  trooping  up  to  sleep  in  shirts  and  trousers, 
as  nightgowns  are  not  provided.  How  would  a  boy  I 
know  like  that,  —  a  boy  who  likes  to  have  "  trommin  " 
on  his  nighties  ?  Of  course,  I  don't  mean  dandy  Don  ! 
Oh,  dear  no  ! 

After  nine  [if  late  in  coming  in]  they  are  fined  five 
cents ;  after  ten,  ten  cents ;  and  after  eleven  they  can't 
come  in  at  all.  This  makes  them  steady,  keeps  them 
out  of  harm,  and  gives  them  time  for  study.  Some  go 
to  the  theatre,  and  sleep  anywhere ;  some  sleep  at  the 
Home,  but  go  out  for  a  better  breakfast  than  they  get 

284  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

there,  as  the  swell  ones  are  fond  of  goodies,  and  live 
well  in  their  funny  way.  Coffee  and  cakes  at  Fulton 
Market  is  "  the  tip-top  grub,"  and  they  often  spend  all 
their  day's  earnings  in  a  play  and  a  supper,  and  sleep  in 
boxes  or  cellars  after  it. 

Lots  of  pussies  were  round  the  kitchen  ;  and  one  black 
one  I  called  a  bootblack,  and  a  gray  kit  that  yowled 
loud  was  a  newsboy.  That  made  some  chaps  laugh,  and 
they  nodded  at  me  as  I  went  out.  Nice  boys  !  but  I 
know  some  nicer  ones.  Write  and  tell  me  something 
about  my  poor  Squabby. 

By-by,  your 

To  her  Family. 

SATURDAY  EVENING,  Dec.  25,  1875, 

DEAR  FAMILY,  — ...  I  had  only  time  for  a  word  this 
A.  M.,  as  the  fourth  letter  was  from  Mrs.  P.  to  say  they  could 
not  go ;  so  I  trotted  off  in  the  fog  at  ten  to  the  boat, 
and  there  found  Mr.  and  Mrs.  G.  and  piles  of  goodies  for 
the  poor  children.  She  is  a  dear  little  old  lady  in  a 
close,  Quakerish  bonnet  and  plain  suit,  but  wide-awake 
and  full  of  energy.  It  was  grand  to  see  her  tackle  the 
big  mayor  and  a  still  bigger  commissioner,  and  tell  them 
what  ought  to  be  done  for  the  poor  things  on  the  Island, 
as  they  are  to  be  routed ;  for  the  city  wants  the  land  for 
some  dodge  or  other.  Both  men  fled  soon,  for  the  brave 
little  woman  was  down  on  'em  in  a  way  that  would  have 
made  Marmee  cry  "  Ankore  !  "  and  clap  her  dress-gloves 
to  rags. 

When  the  rotundities  had  retired,  she  fell  upon  a 
demure  priest,  and  read  him  a  sermon ;  and  then  won 
the  heart  of  a  boyish  reporter  so  entirely  that  he  stuck  to 
us  all  day,  and  helped  serve  out  dolls  and  candy  like  a 
man  and  a  brother.  Long  life  to  him  ! 

Family  Changes.  285 

Mr.  G.  and  I  discussed  pauperism  and  crime  like  two 
old  wiseacres ;  and  it  was  sweet  to  hear  the  gray-headed 
couple  say  "  thee  "  and  "  thou,"  "  Abby  "  and  "  James,"  to 
one  another,  he  following  with  the  bundles  wherever  the 
little  poke-bonnet  led  the  way.  I  've  had  a  pretty  good 
variety  of  Christmases  in  my  day,  but  never  one  like  this 
before.  First  we  drove  in  an  old  ramshackle  hack  to 
the  chapel,  whither  a  boy  had  raced  before  us,  crying 
joyfully  to  all  he  met,  "She's  come!  Miss  G.  —  she  's 
come  ! '  And  all  faces  beamed,  as  well  they  might, 
since  for  thirty  years  she  has  gone  to  make  set  after  set 
of  little  forlornities  happy  on  this  day. 

The  chapel  was  full.  On  one  side,  in  front,  girls  in 
blue  gowns  and  white  pinafores ;  on  the  other,  small 
chaps  in  pinafores  likewise  ;  and  behind  them,  bigger 
boys  in  gray  suits  with  cropped  heads,  and  larger  girls 
with  ribbons  in  their  hair  and  pink  calico  gowns.  They 
sang  alternately;  the  girls  gave  "  Juanita  "  very  well,  the 
little  chaps  a  pretty  song  about  poor  children  asking  a 
"  little  white  angel "  to  leave  the  gates  of  heaven  ajar,  so 
they  could  peep  in,  if  no  more.  Quite  pathetic,  coming 
from  poor  babies  who  had  no  home  but  this. 

The  big  boys  spoke  pieces,  and  I  was  amused  when 
one  bright  lad  in  gray,  with  a  red  band  on  his  arm,  spoke 
the  lines  I  gave  G.,  —  "Merry  Christmas."  No  one 
knew  me,  so  I  had  the  joke  to  myself;  and  I  found 
afterward  that  I  was  taken  for  the  mayoress,  who  was 
expected.  Then  we  drove  to  the  hospital,  and  there  the 
heart-ache  began,  for  me  at  least,  so  sad  it  was  to  see 
these  poor  babies,  born  of  want  and  sin,  suffering  every 
sort  of  deformity,  disease,  and  pain.  Cripples  half  blind, 
scarred  with  scrofula,  burns,  and  abuse,  —  it  was  simply 
awful  and  indescribable  ! 

As  we  went  in,  I  with  a  great  box  of  dolls  and  the 

286  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

young  reporter  with  a  bigger  box  of  candy,  a  general 
cry  of  delight  greeted  us.  Some  children  tried  to  run, 
half-blind  ones  stretched  out  their  groping  hands,  little 
ones  crawled,  and  big  ones  grinned,  while  several  poor 
babies  sat  up  in  their  bed,  beckoning  us  to  "  come 

One  poor  mite,  so  eaten  up  with  sores  that  its  whole 
face  was  painted  with  some  white  salve,  —  its  head  covered 
with  an  oilskin  cap ;  one  eye  gone,  and  the  other  half 
filmed  over ;  hands  bandaged,  and  ears  bleeding,  —  could 
only  moan  and  move  its  feet  till  I  put  a  gay  red  dolly  in 
one  hand  and  a  pink  candy  in  the  other ;  then  the  dim 
eye  brightened,  the  hoarse  voice  said  feebly,  "Tanky, 
lady  !  "  and  I  left  it  contentedly  sucking  the  sweetie,  and 
trying  to  see  its  dear  new  toy.  It  can't  see  another 
Christmas,  and  I  like  to  think  I  helped  make  this  one 
happy,  even  for  a  minute. 

It  was  pleasant  to  watch  the  young  reporter  trot  round 
with  the  candy-box,  and  come  up  to  me  all  interest  to 
say,  "  One  girl  has  n't  got  a  doll,  ma'am,  and  looks  so 

After  the  hospital,  we  went  to  the  idiot  house ;  and 
there  I  had  a  chance  to  see  faces  and  figures  that  will 
haunt  me  a  long  time.  A  hundred  or  so  of  half-grown 
boys  and  girls  ranged  down  a  long  hall,  a  table  of  toys 
in  the  middle,  and  an  empty  one  for  Mrs.  G.'s  gifts.  A 
cheer  broke  out  as  the  little  lady  hurried  in  waving  her 
handkerchief  and  a  handful  of  gay  bead  necklaces,  and 
"  Oh  !  Ohs  ! '  followed  the  appearance  of  the  doll-lady 
and  the  candy  man. 

A  pile  of  gay  pictures  was  a  new  idea,  and  Mrs.  G. 
told  me  to  hold  up  some  bright  ones  and  see  if  the  poor 
innocents  would  understand  and  enjoy  them.  I  held  up 
one  of  two  kittens  lapping  spilt  milk,  and  the  girls  began 

Family  Changes.  287 

to  mew  and  say  "  Cat !  ah,  pretty."  Then  a  fine  horse, 
and  the  boys  bounced  on  their  benches  with  pleasure ; 
while  a  ship  in  full  sail  produced  a  cheer  of  rapture  from 
them  all. 

Some  were  given  out  to  the  good  ones,  and  the  rest 
are  to  be  pinned  round  the  room ;  so  the  pictures  were  a 
great  success.  All  wanted  dolls,  even  boys  of  nineteen ; 
for  all  were  children  in  mind.  But  the  girls  had  them, 
and  young  women  of  eighteen  cuddled  their  babies  and 
were  happy.  The  boys  chose  from  the  toy-table,  and  it 
was  pathetic  to  see  great  fellows  pick  out  a  squeaking  dog 
without  even  the  wit  to  pinch  it  when  it  was  theirs.  One 
dwarf  of  thirty-five  chose  a  little  Noah's  ark,  and  brooded 
over  it  in  silent  bliss. 

Some  with  beards  sucked  their  candy,  and  stared  at  a 
toy  cow  or  box  of  blocks  as  if  their  cup  was  full.  One 
French  girl  sang  the  Marseillaise  in  a  feeble  voice,  and 
was  so  overcome  by  her  new  doll  that  she  had  an  epilep- 
tic fit  on  the  spot,  which  made  two  others  go  off  like- 
wise ;  and  a  slight  pause  took  place  while  they  were 
kindly  removed  to  sleep  it  off. 

A  little  tot  of  four,  who  had  n't  sense  to  put  candy  in 
its  mouth,  was  so  fond  of  music  that  when  the  girls  sang 
the  poor  vacant  face  woke  up,  and  a  pair  of  lovely  soft 
hazel  eyes  stopped  staring  dully  at  nothing,  and  went 
wandering  to  and  fro  with  light  in  them,  as  if  to  find  the 
only  sound  that  can  reach  its  poor  mind. 

I  guess  I  gave  away  two  hundred  dolls,  and  a  soap-box 
of  candy  was  empty  when  we  left.  But  rows  of  sticky 
faces  beamed  at  us,  and  an  array  of  gay  toys  wildly 
waved  after  us,  as  if  we  were  angels  who  had  showered 
goodies  on  the  poor  souls. 

Pauper  women  are  nurses  ;  and  Mrs.  G.  says  the  babies 
die  like  sheep,  many  being  deserted  so  young  nothing 

288  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

can  be  hoped  or  done  for  them.  One  of  the  teachers  in 
the  idiot  home  was  a  Miss  C.,  who  remembered  Nan  at 
Dr.  Wilbur's.  Very  lady-like,  and  all  devotion  to  me. 
But  such  a  life  !  Oh,  me  !  Who  can  lead  it,  and  not 
go  mad? 

At  four,  we  left  and  came  home,  Mrs.  G.  giving  a  box 
of  toys  and  sweeties  on  board  the  boat  for  the  children 
of  the  men  who  run  it.  So  leaving  a  stream  of  blessings 
and  pleasures  behind  her,  the  dear  old  lady  drove  away, 
simply  saying,  "  There  now,  I  shall  feel  better  for  the 
next  year  !  "  Well  she  may;  bless  her  ! 

She  made  a  speech  to  the  chapel  children  after  the 
Commissioner  had  prosed  in  the  usual  way,  and  she  told 
'em  that  she  should  come  as  long  as  she  could,  and  when 
she  was  gone  her  children  would  still  keep  it  up  in  mem- 
ory of  her ;  so  for  thirty  years  more  she  hoped  this,  their 
one  holiday,  would  be  made  happy  for  them.  I  could 
have  hugged  her  on  the  spot,  the  motherly  old  dear  ! 

Next  Wednesday  we  go  to  the  Tombs,  and  some  day 
I  am  to  visit  the  hospital  with  her,  for  I  like  this  better 
than  parties,  etc. 

I  got  home  at  five,  and  then  remembered  that  I  'd  had 
no  lunch ;  so  I  took  an  apple  till  six,  when  I  discovered 
that  all  had  dined  at  one  so  the  helpers  could  go  early 
this  evening.  Thus  my  Christmas  day  was  without  din- 
ner or  presents,  for  the  first  time  since  I  can  remember. 
Yet  it  has  been  a  very  memorable  day,  and  I  feel  as  if 
I  'd  had  a  splendid  feast  seeing  the  poor  babies  wallow 
in  turkey  soup,  and  that  every  gift  I  put  into  their  hands 
had  come  back  to  me  in  the  dumb  delight  of  their 
unchild-like  faces  trying  to  smile. 

After  the  pleasant  visit  in  New  York,  Miss  Alcott 
returned  to  Boston,  where  she  went  into  society 

Family  Changes.  289 

more  than  usual,  often  attending  clubs,  theatres, 
and  receptions.  She  was  more  lionized  than  ever, 
and  had  a  natural  pleasure  in  the  attention  she 

The  summer  of  1876  she  spent  at  Concord,  nurs- 
ing her  mother,  who  was  very  ill.  She  here  wrote 
"  Rose  in  Bloom,"  the  sequel  to  "  Eight  Cousins," 
in  three  weeks.  It  was  published  in  November. 

Louisa  was  anxious  that  her  sister  should  have 
a  home  for  her  young  family.  Mrs.  Pratt  invested 
what  she  could  of  her  husband's  money  in  the 
purchase,  and  Louisa  contributed  the  rest.  This 
was  the  so-called  Thoreau  House  on  the  main 
street  in  Concord,  which  became  Mrs.  Pratt's 
home,  and  finally  that  of  her  father. 

Louisa  spent  the  summer  of  1877  in  Concord. 
Her  mother's  illness  increased,  and  she  \vas  her- 
self very  ill  in  August.  Yet  she  wrote  this  sum- 
mer one  of  her  brightest  and  sweetest  stories, 
"  Under  the  Lilacs."  Her  love  of  animals  is  spe- 
cially apparent  in  this  book,  and  she  records  going 
to  the  circus  to  make  studies  for  the  performing 
dog  Sanch. 

During  the  winter  of  1877,  Miss  Alcott  went  to 
the  Bellevue  for  some  weeks,  and  having  secured 
the  necessary  quiet,  devoted  herself  to  the  writing 
of  a  novel  for  the  famous  No  Name  Series  pub- 
lished by  Roberts  Brothers.  This  book  had  been 
in  her  mind  for  some  time,  as  is  seen  by  the  jour- 
nal. As  it  was  to  appear  anonymously,  and  was 
not  intended  for  children,  she  was  able  to  depart 
from  her  usual  manner,  and  indulge  the  weird 
and  lurid  fancies  which  took  possession  of  her  in 


290  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

her  dramatic  days,  and  when  writing  sensational 
stories.  She  was  much  interested,  and  must  have 
written  it  very  rapidly,  as  it  was  published  in  April. 
She  enjoyed  the  excitement  of  her  incognito,  and 
was  much  amused  at  the  guesses  of  critics  and 
Iriends,  who  attributed  the  book  to  others,  and 
were  sure  Louisa  Alcott  did  not  write  it,  because 
its  style  was  so  unlike  hers. 

It  certainly  is  very  unlike  the  books  Miss  Alcott 
had  lately  written.  It  has  nothing  of  the  home- 
like simplicity  and  charm  of  "  Little  Women," 
"  Old-Fashioned  Girl,"  and  the  other  stories  with 
which  she  was  delighting  the  children,  and,  with 
"  Moods,"  must  always  be  named  as  exceptional 
when  speaking  of  her  works.  Still,  a  closer  study 
of  her  life  and  nature  will  reveal  much  of  her  own 
tastes  and  habits  of  thought  in  the  book;  and  it  is 
evident  that  she  wrote  con  amore,  and  was  fasci- 
nated by  the  familiars  she  evoked,  however  little 
charm  they  may  seem  to  possess  to  others.  She 
was  fond  of  Hawthorne's  books.  The  influence  of 
his  subtle  and  weird  romances  is  undoubtedly  per- 
ceptible in  the  book,  and  it  is  not  strange  that  it 
was  attributed  to  his  son.  She  says  it  had  been 
simmering  in  her  brain  ever  since  she  read  "  Faust" 
the  year  before ;  and  she  clearly  wished  to  work 
according  to  Goethe's  thought,  —  that  the  Prince 
of  Darkness  was  a  gentleman,  and  must  be  repre- 
sented as  belonging  to  the  best  society. 

The  plot  is  powerful  and  original.  A  young  poet, 
with  more  ambition  than  genius  or  self-knowledge, 
finds  himself,  at  nineteen,  friendless,  penniless,  and 
hopeless,  and  is  on  the  point  of  committing  suicide. 

Family  Changes.  291 

He  is  saved  by  Helwyze,  a  middle-aged  man, 
who  has  been  severely  crippled  by  a  terrible  fall, 
and  his  heart  seared  by  the  desertion  of  the  woman 
he  loved.  A  man  of  intellect,  power,  imagination, 
and  wealth,  but  incapable  of  conscientious  feeling 
or  true  love,  he  is  a  dangerous  savior  for  the  im- 
pulsive poet;  but  he  takes  him  to  his  home,  warms, 
feeds,  and  shelters  him,  and  promises  to  bring  out 
his  book.  The  brilliant,  passionate  woman  who 
gave  up  her  lover  when  his  health  and  beauty  were 
gone,  returned  to  him  when  youth  had  passed, 
and  would  gladly  have  devoted  herself  to  sooth- 
ing his  pain  and  enriching  his  life.  Her  feeling 
is  painted  with  delicacy  and  tenderness. 

But  Helwyze's  heart  knew  nothing  of  the  divine 
quality  of  forgiveness  ;  for  his  love  there  was  no  res- 
urrection ;  and  he  only  valued  the  power  he  could 
exercise  over  a  brilliant  woman,  and  the  intellectual 
entertainment  she  could  bring  him.  A  sweet  young 
girl,  Olivia's  protegee,  completes  the  very  limited 
dramatis  personcs. 

The  young  poet,  Felix  Canaris,  under  the  guid- 
ance of  his  new  friend,  wins  fame,  success,  and  the 
young  girl's  heart;  but  his  wayward  fancy  turns 
rather  to  the  magnificent  Olivia.  The  demoniac 
Helwyze  works  upon  this  feeling,  and  claims  of 
Olivia  her  fair  young  friend  Gladys  as  a  wife  for 
Felix,  who  is  forced  to  accept  her  at  the  hands  of 
his  master.  She  is  entirely  responsive  to  the  love 
which  she  fancies  she  has  won,  and  is  grateful  for 
her  fortunate  lot,  and  devotes  herself  to  the  com- 
fort and  happiness  of  the  poor  invalid  who  de- 
lights in  her  beauty  and  grace.  For  a  time  Felix 

292  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

enjoys  a  society  success,  to  which  his  charming 
wife,  as  well  as  his  book,  contribute.  But  at  last 
this  excitement  flags.  He  writes  another  book, 
which  he  threatens  to  burn  because  he  is  dissatis- 
fied with  it.  Gladys  entreats  him  to  spare  it,  and 
Helwyze  offers  to  read  it  to  her.  She  is  overcome 
and  melted  with  emotion  at  the  passion  and  pathos 
of  the  story ;  and  when  Helwyze  asks,  "  Shall  I 
burn  it  ?  "  Felix  answers,  "  No  ! '  Again  the  book 
brings  success  and  admiration,  but  the  tender  wife 
sees  that  it  does  not  insure  happiness,  and  that 
her  husband  is  plunging  into  the  excitement  of 

The  demon  Helwyze  has  complete  control  over 
the  poet,  which  he  exercises  with  such  subtle  tyr- 
anny that  the  young  man  is  driven  to  the  dreadful 
thought  of  murder  to  escape  from  him ;  but  he  is 
saved  from  the  deed  by  the  gentle  influence  of  his 
wife,  who  has  won  his  heart  at  last,  unconscious 
that  it  had  not  always  been  hers. 

Helwyze  finds  his  own  punishment.  One  being 
resists  his  power,  —  Gladys  breathes  his  poisoned 
atmosphere  unharmed.  He  sends  for  Olivia  as  his 
ally  to  separate  the  wife  from  her  husband's  love. 
A  passion  of  curiosity  possesses  him  to  read  her 
very  heart;  and  at  last  he  resorts  to  a  strange 
means  to  accomplish  his  purpose.  He  gives  her 
an  exciting  drug  without  her  knowledge,  and  un- 
der its  influence  she  speaks  and  acts  with  a  rare 
genius  which  calls  forth  the  admiration  of  all  the 
group.  Left  alone  with  her,  Helwyze  exercises  his 
magnetic  power  to  draw  forth  the  secrets  of  her 
heart;  but  he  reads  there  only  a  pure  and  true 

Family  Changes.  293 

love  for  her  husband,  and  fear  of  the  unhallowed 
passion  which  he  is  cherishing.  The  secret  of 
his  power  over  the  husband  is  at  last  revealed. 
Canaris  has  published  as  his  own  the  work  of 
Helwyze,  and  all  the  fame  and  glory  he  has  re- 
ceived has  been  won  by  deceit,  and  is  a  miserable 

The  tragic  result  is  inevitable.  Gladys  dies  under 
the  pressure  of  a  burden  too  heavy  for  her,  -  -  the 
knowledge  of  deceit  in  him  she  had  loved  and 
trusted ;  while  the  stricken  Helwyze  is  paralyzed, 
and  lives  henceforth  only  a  death  in  life. 

With  all  the  elements  of  power  and  beauty  in 
this  singular  book,  it  fails  to  charm  and  win  the 
heart  of  the  reader.  The  circumstances  are  in  a 
romantic  setting,  but  still  they  are  prosaic ;  and 
tragedy  is  only  endurable  when  taken  up  into  the 
region  of  the  ideal,  where  the  thought  of  the  uni- 
versal rounds  out  all  traits  of  the  individual.  In 
Goethe's  Faust,  Margaret  is  the  sweetest  and  sim- 
plest of  maidens ;  but  in  her  is  the  life  of  all 
wronged  and  suffering  womanhood. 

The  realism  which  is  delightful  in  the  pictures 
of  little  women  and  merry  boys  is  painful  when 
connected  with  passions  so  morbid  and  lives  so  far 
removed  from  joy  and  sanity.  As  in  her  early 
dramas  and  sensational  stories,  we  do  not  find 
Louisa  Alcott's  own  broad,  generous,  healthy  life, 
or  that  which  lay  around  her,  in  this  book,  but  the 
reminiscences  of  her  reading,  which  she  had  striven 
to  make  her  own  by  invention  and  fancy. 

This  note  refers  to  "A  Modern  Mephistoph- 
eles  " :  — 

294  Louisa  May  Alcott. 


DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  I  had  to  keep  the  proof  longer 
than  I  meant  because  a  funeral  came  in  the  way. 

The  book  as  last  sent  is  lovely,  and  much  bigger  than 
I  expected. 

Poor  "  Marmee,"  ill  in  bed,  hugged  it,  and  said,  "  It 
is  perfect !  only  I  do  wish  your  name  could  be  on  it." 
She  is  very  proud  of  it ;  and  tender-hearted  Anna  weeps 
and  broods  over  it,  calling  Gladys  the  best  and  sweetest 
character  I  ever  did.  So  much  for  home  opinion ;  now 
let 's  see  what  the  public  will  say. 

May  clamors  for  it ;  but  I  don't  want  to  send  this  till 
she  has  had  one  or  two  of  the  others.  Have  you  sent 
her  "  Is  That  All?"  If  not,  please  do;  then  it  won't 
look  suspicious  to  send  only  "  M.  M." 

I  am  so  glad  the  job  is  done,  and  hope  it  won't  dis- 
grace the  series.  Is  not  another  to  come  before  this? 
I  hope  so ;  for  many  people  suspect  what  is  up,  and  I 
could  tell  my  fibs  about  No.  6  better  if  it  was  not  mine. 

Thanks  for  the  trouble  you  have  taken  to  keep  the 
secret.  Now  the  fun  will  begin. 

Yours  truly,  L.  M.  A. 

P.  S.  —  Bean's  expressman  grins  when  he  hands  in  the 
daily  parcel.  He  is  a  Concord  man. 

By  Louisa's  help  the  younger  sister  again  went 
abroad  in  1876;  and  her  bright  affectionate  letters 
cheered  the  little  household,  much  saddened  by 
the  mother's  illness. 


January,  1876.  —  Helped  Mrs.  Croly  receive  two 
hundred  gentlemen. 

A  letter  from  Baron  Tauchnitz  asking  leave  to  put  my 

Family  Changes.  295 

book  in  his  foreign  library,  and  sending  600  marks  to 
pay  for  it.  Said,  "  Yes,  thank  you,  Baron." 

Went  to  Philadelphia  to  see  Cousin  J.  May  installed 
in  Dr.  Furness's  pulpit.  Dull  place  is  Philadelphia. 
Heard  Beecher  preach ;  did  not  like  him.  .  .  . 

Went  home  on  the  2ist,  finding  I  could  not  work 
here.  Soon  tire  of  being  a  fine  lady. 

February  and  March.  —  Took  a  room  in  B.,  and  fell 
to  work  on  short  tales  for  F.  T.  N.  wanted  a  centennial 
story ;  but  my  frivolous  New  York  life  left  me  no  ideas. 
Went  to  Centennial  Ball  at  Music  Hall,  and  got  an  idea. 

Wrote  a  tale  of  "  '76,"  which  with  others  will  make  a 
catchpenny  book.  Mother  poorly,  so  I  go  home  to  nurse 

April,  May,  and  June.  —  Mother  better.  Nan  and 
boys  go  to  P.  farm.  May  and  I  clean  the  old  house. 
It  seems  as  if  the  dust  of  two  centuries  haunted  the 
ancient  mansion,  and  came  out  spring  and  fall  in  a  ghostly 
way  for  us  to  clear  up. 

Great  freshets  and  trouble. 

Exposition  in  Philadelphia  ;  don't  care  to  go.  America 
ought  to  pay  her  debts  before  she  gives  parties.  "  Silver 
Pitchers,"  etc.,  comes  out,  and  goes  well.  Poor  stuff; 
but  the  mill  must  keep  on  grinding  even  chaff. 

June.  —  Lovely  month  !  Keep  hotel  and  wait  on 

Try  to  get  up  steam  for  a  new  serial,  as  Mrs.  Dodge 
wants  one,  and  Scribner  offers  $3,000  for  it.  Roberts 
Brothers  want  a  novel ;  and  the  various  newspapers  and 
magazines  clamor  for  tales.  My  brain  is  squeezed  dry, 
and  I  can  only  wait  for  help. 

July,  August.  —  Get  an  idea  and  start  "  Rose  in  Bloom," 
though  I  hate  sequels. 

September.  —  On  the   9th    my  dear  girl  sails  in   the 

296  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

"  China  "for  a  year  in  London  or  Paris.  God  be  with 
her  !  She  has  done  her  distasteful  duty  faithfully,  and 
deserved  a  reward.  She  cannot  find  the  help  she  needs 
here,  and  is  happy  and  busy  in  her  own  world  over  there. 

[She  never  came  home.  —  L.  M.  A.] 
Finish  "  Rose." 

•  •••••••• 

November.  —  "  Rose  "  comes  out ;  sells  well. 

.  .  .  Forty- four  years  old.  My  new  task  gets  on 
slowly ;  but  I  keep  at  it,  and  can  be  a  prop,  if  not  an 
angel,  in  the  house,  as  Nan  is. 

December.  —  Miss  P.  sends  us  a  pretty  oil  sketch  of 
May,  -  -  so  like  the  dear  soul  in  her  violet  wrapper,  with 
yellow  curls  piled  up,  and  the  long  hand  at  work.  Mother 
delights  in  it. 

She  (M.)  is  doing  finely,  and  says,  "I  am  getting  on, 
and  I  feel  as  if  it  was  not  all  a  mistake ;  for  I  have  some 
talent,  and  will  prove  it."  Modesty  is  a  sign  of  genius, 
and  I  think  our  girl  has  both.  The  money  I  invest  in  her 
pays  the  sort  of  interest  I  like.  I  am  proud  to  have  her 
show  what  she  can  do,  and  have  her  depend  upon  no 
one  but  me.  Success  to  little  Raphael !  My  dull  winter 
is  much  cheered  by  her  happiness  and  success. 

January,  February,  1877. — The  year  begins  well. 
Nan  keeps  house ;  boys  fine,  tall  lads,  good  and  gay ; 
Father  busy  with  his  new  book ;  Mother  cosey  with  her 
sewing,  letters,  Johnson,  and  success  of  her  "  girls." 

Went  for  some  weeks  to  the  Bellevue,  and  wrote  "A 
Modern  Mephistopheles  >;  for  the  No  Name  Series.  It 
has  been  simmering  ever  since  I  read  Faust  last  year. 
Enjoyed  doing  it,  being  tired  of  providing  moral  pap  for 
the  young.  Long  to  write  a  novel,  but  cannot  get  time 

Family  Changes.  297 

May's  letters  our  delight.  She  is  so  in  earnest  she 
will  not  stop  for  pleasure,  rest,  or  society,  but  works  away 
like  a  Trojan.  Her  work  admired  by  masters  and  mates 
for  its  vigor  and  character. 

March.  —  Begin  to  think  of  buying  the  Thoreau  place 
for  Nan.  The  $4,000  received  from  the  Vt.  and  Eastern 
R.  Rs.  must  be  invested,  and  she  wants  a  home  of  her 
own,  now  the  lads  are  growing  up. 

Mother  can  be  with  her  in  the  winter  for  a  change,  and 
leave  me  free  to  write  in  B.  Concord  has  no  inspiration 
for  me. 

April.  —  May,  at  the  request  of  her  teacher,  M.  Muller, 
sends  a  study  of  still  life  to  the  Salon.  The  little  picture 
is  accepted,  well  hung,  and  praised  by  the  judges.  No 
friend  at  court,  and  the  modest  work  stood  on  its  own 
merits.  She  is  very  proud  to  see  her  six  months'  hard 
work  bear  fruit.  A  happy  girl,  and  all  say  she  deserves 
the  honor. 

"  M.  M."  appears  and  causes  much  guessing.  It  is 
praised  and  criticised,  and  I  enjoy  the  fun,  especially 
when  friends  say,  "  I  know  you  did  n't  write  it,  for  you 
can't  hide  your  peculiar  style." 

Help  to  buy  the  house  for  Nan,  —  $4,500.  So  she  has 
her  wish,  and  is  happy.  When  shall  I  have  mine? 
Ought -to  be  contented  with  knowing  I  help  both  sisters 
by  my  brains.  But  I  'm  selfish,  and  want  to  go  away  and 
rest  in  Europe.  Never  shall. 

May>  June.  —  Quiet  days  keeping  house  and  attending 
to  Marmee,  who  grows  more  and  more  feeble.  Helped 
Nan  get  ready  for  her  new  home. 

Felt  very  well,  and  began  to  hope  I  had  outlived  the 
neuralgic  worries  and  nervous  woes  born  of  the  hospital 
fever  and  the  hard  years  following. 

May  living  alone  in  Paris,  while  her  mates  go  jaunting, 

298  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

—  a  solitary  life ;  but  she  is  so  busy  she  is  happy  and 
safe.  A  good  angel  watches  over  her.  Take  pleasant 
drives  early  in  the  A.  M.  with  Marmee.  She  takes  her 
comfort  in  a  basket  wagon,  and  we  drive  to  the  woods, 
picking  flowers  and  stopping  where  we  like.  It  keeps 
her  young,  and  rests  her  weary  nerves. 

July.  —  Got  too  tired,  and  was  laid  up  for  some  weeks. 
A  curious  time,  lying  quite  happily  at  rest,  wondering 
what  was  to  come  next. 

August.  —  As  soon  as  able  began  "Under  the  Lilacs," 
but  could  not  do  much. 

Mrs.  Alcott  grew  rapidly  worse,  and  her  devoted 
daughter  recognized  that  the  final  parting  was  near. 
As  Louisa  watched  by  the  bedside  she  wrote  "  My 
Girls,"  and  finished  "  Under  the  Lilacs." 

The  journal  tells  the  story  of  the  last  days  of 
watching,  and  of  the  peaceful  close  of  the  mother's 
self-sacrificing  yet  blessed  life.  Louisa  was  very 
brave  in  the  presence  of  death.  She  had  no  dark 
thoughts  connected  with  it;  and  in  her  mother's 
case,  after  her  long,  hard  life,  she  recognized  how 
"  growing  age  longed  for  its  peaceful  sleep." 

The  tie  between  this  mother  and  daughter  was 
exceptionally  strong  and  tender.  The  mother  saw 
all  her  own  fine  powers  reproduced  and  developed 
in  her  daughter;  and  if  she  also  recognized  the 
passionate  energy  which  had  been  the  strength  and 
the  bane  of  her  own  life,  it  gave  her  only  a  more 
constant  watchfulness  to  save  her  child  from  the 
struggles  and  regrets  from  which  she  had  suffered 

Family  Changes.  299 


September,  1877.  —  On  the  7th  Marmee  had  a  very  ill 
turn,  and  the  doctor  told  me  it  was  the  beginning  of  the 
end.  [Water  on  the  chest.]  She  was  so  ill  we  sent  for 
Father  from  Walcott ;  and  I  forgot  myself  in  taking  care 
of  poor  Marmee,  who  suffered  much  and  longed  to  go. 

As  1  watched  with  her  I  wrote  "  My  Girls,"  to  go  with 
other  tales  in  a  new  "  Scrap  Bag,"  and  finished  "  Under 
the  Lilacs."  I  foresaw  a  busy  or  a  sick  winter,  and  wanted 
to  finish  while  I  could,  so  keeping  my  promise  and  earn- 
ing my  $3,000. 

Brain  very  lively  and  pen  flew.  It  always  takes  an 
exigency  to  spur  me  up  and  wring  out  a  book.  Never 
have  time  to  go  slowly  and  do  my  best. 

October.  —  Fearing  I  might  give  out,  got  a  nurse  and 
rested  a  little,  so  that  when  the  last  hard  days  come  I 
might  not  fail  Marmee,  who  says,  "  Stay  by,  Louy,  and 
help  me  if  I  suffer  too  much."  I  promised,  and  watched 
her  sit  panting  life  away  day  after  day.  We  thought  she 
would  not  outlive  her  seventy-seventh  birthday,  but, 
thanks  to  Dr.  W.  and  homoeopathy,  she  got  relief,  and  we 
had  a  sad  little  celebration,  well  knowing  it  would  be  the 
last.  Aunt  B.  and  L.  W.  came  up,  and  with  fruit,  flowers, 
smiling  faces,  and  full  hearts,  we  sat  round  the  brave 
soul  who  faced  death  so  calmly  and  was  ready  to  go. 

I  overdid  and  was  very  ill,  —  in  danger  of  my  life  for  a 
week,  —  and  feared  to  go  before  Marmee.  But  pulled 
through,  and  got  up  slowly  to  help  her  die.  A  strange 

November.  —  Still  feeble,  and  Mother  failing  fast.  On 
the  1 4th  we  were  both  moved  to  Anna's  at  Mother's 
earnest  wish. 

A  week  in  the  new  home,  and  then  she  ceased  to  care 

300  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

for  anything.  Kept  her  bed  for  three  days,  lying  down 
after  weeks  in  a  chair,  and  on  the  25th,  at  dusk,  that 
rainy  Sunday,  fell  quietly  asleep  in  my  arms. 

She  was  very  happy  all  day,  thinking  herself  a  girl 
again,  with  parents  and  sisters  round  her.  Said  her  Sun- 
day hymn  to  me,  whom  she  called  "  Mother,"  and  smiled 
at  us,  saying,  "A  smile  is  as  good  as  a  prayer."  Looked 
often  at  the  little  picture  of  May,  and  waved  her  hand  to 
it,  "  Good-by,  little  May,  good- by  !  " 

Her  last  words  to  Father  were,  "  You  are  laying  a  very 
soft  pillow  for  me  to  go  to  sleep  on." 

We  feared  great  suffering,  but  she  was  spared  that,  and 
slipped  peacefully  away.  I  was  so  glad  when  the  last 
weary  breath  was  drawn,  and  silence  came,  with  its  rest 
and  peace. 

On  the  27th  it  was  necessary  to  bury  her,  and  we  took 
her  quietly  away  to  Sleepy  Hollow.  A  hard  day,  but  the 
last  duty  we  could  do  for  her ;  and  there  we  left  her  at 
sunset  beside  dear  Lizzie's  dust,  —  alone  so  long. 

On  the  28th  a  memorial  service,  and  all  the  friends  at 
Anna's,  —  Dr.  Bartol  and  Mr.  Foote  of  Stone  Chapel.  A 
simple,  cheerful  service,  as  she  would  have  liked  it. 

Quiet  days  afterward  resting  in  her  rest. 

My  duty  is  done,  and  now  I  shall  be  glad  to  follow 

December.  —  Many  kind  letters  from  all  who  best  knew 
and  loved  the  noble  woman. 

I  never  wish  her  back,  but  a  great  warmth  seems  gone 
out  of  life,  and  there  is  no  motive  to  go  on  now. 

My  only  comfort  is  that  I  could  make  her  last  years 
comfortable,  and  lift  off  the  burden  she  had  carried  so 
bravely  all  these  years.  She  was  so  loyal,  tender,  and 
true  ;  life  was  hard  for  her,  and  no  one  understood  all  she 
had  to  bear  but  we,  her  children.  I  think  I  shall  soon 

Family  Changes.  301 

follow  her,  and  am  quite  ready  to  go  now  she  no  longer 
needs  me. 

January,  1878.  —  An  idle  month  at  Nan's,  for  I  can 
only  suffer. 

Father  goes  about,  being  restless  with  his  anchor  gone. 
Dear  Nan  is  house-mother  now,  —  so  patient,  so  thought- 
ful and  tender ;  I  need  nothing  but  that  cherishing  which 
only  mothers  can  give. 

May  busy  in  London.  Very  sad  about  Marmee  ;  but 
it  was  best  not  to  send  for  her,  and  Marmee  forbade  it, 
and  she  has  some  very  tender  friends  near  her. 

February.  — ...  Wrote  some  lines  on  Marmee. 

To  Mrs.  Dodge. 

CONCORD,  June  3  [1877]. 

DEAR  MRS.  DODGE,  —  The  tale  1  goes  slowly  owing  to 
interruptions,  for  summer  is  a  busy  time,  and  I  get  few 
quiet  days.  Twelve  chapters  are  done,  but  are  short 
ones,  and  so  will  make  about  six  or  seven  numbers  in 
"St.  Nicholas." 

I  will  leave  them  divided  in  this  way  that  you  may  put 
in  as  many  as  you  please  each  month ;  for  trying  to  suit 
the  magazine  hurts  the  story  in  its  book  form,  though 
this  way  does  no  harm  to  the  monthly  parts,  I  think. 

I  will  send  you  the  first  few  chapters  during  the  week 
for  Mrs.  Foote,  and  with  them  the  schedule  you  sug- 
gest, so  that  my  infants  may  not  be  drawn  with  whiskers, 
and  my  big  boys  and  girls  in  pinafores,  as  in  "  Eight 

I  hope  the  new  baby  won't  be  set  aside  too  soon  for 
my  illustrations  ;  but  I  do  feel  a  natural  wish  to  have  one 
story  prettily  adorned  with  good  pictures,  as  hitherto  ar- 
tists have  much  afflicted  me. 

1  Under  the  Lilacs. 

3O2  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

I  am  daily  waiting  with  anxiety  for  an  illumination  of 
some  sort,  as  my  plot  is  very  vague  so  far ;  and  though  I 
don't  approve  of  "  sensations  "  in  children's  books,  one 
must  have  a  certain  thread  on  which  to  string  the  small 
events  which  make  up  the  true  sort  of  child-life. 

I  intend  to  go  and  simmer  an  afternoon  at  Van  Am- 
burg's  great  show,  that  I  may  get  hints  for  the  further 
embellishment  of  Ben  and  liis  dog.  I  have  also  put  in 
a  poem  by  F.  B.  S.'s  small  son,1  and  that  hit  will  give 
Mrs.  Foote  a  good  scene  with  the  six-year-old  poet  re- 
citing his  verses  under  the  lilacs. 

I  shall  expect  the  small  tots  to  be  unusually  good, 
since  the  artist  has  a  live  model  to  study  from.  Please 
present  my  congratulations  to  the  happy  mamma  and 

Mr.  Foote,  Jr. 

Yours  warmly, 

L.  M.  A. 

AUGUST  21,  1879. 

DEAR  MRS.  DODGE,  —  I  have  not  been  able  to  do 
anything  on  the  serial.  .  .  .  But  after  a  week  at  the 
seaside,  to  get  braced  up  for  work,  I  intend  to  begin. 
The  Revolutionary  tale  does  not  seem  to  possess  me.  I 
have  casually  asked  many  of  my  young  folks,  when  they 
demand  a  new  story,  which  they  would  like,  one  of  that 
sort  or  the  old  "  Eight  Cousin  "  style,  and  they  all  say 
the  latter.  It  would  be  much  the  easier  to  do,  as  I  have 
a  beginning  and  a  plan  all  ready,  —  a  village,  and  the 
affairs  of  a  party  of  children.  We  have  many  little  ro- 
mances going  on  among  the  Concord  boys  and  girls, 
and  all  sorts  of  queer  things,  which  will  work  into  ''Jack 
and  Jill '  nicely.  Mrs.  Croly  has  been  anxious  for  a 
story,  and  I  am  trying  to  do  a  short  one,  as  I  told  her 

1  Under  the  Lilacs,  page  78. 

Family  Changes.  303 

you  had  the  refusal  of  my  next  serial.  I  hope  you  will 
not  be  very  much  disappointed  about  the  old-time  tale. 
It  would  take  study  to  do  it  well,  and  leisure  is  just  what 
I  have  not  got,  and  I  shall  never  have,  I  fear,  when  writ- 
ing is  to  be  done.  I  will  send  you  a  few  chapters  of 
"Jack  and  Jill"  when  in  order,  if  you  like,  and  you  can 
decide  if  they  will  suit.  I  shall  try  to  have  it  unlike  the 
others  if  possible,  but  the  dears  will  cling  to  the  "  Little 
Women  "  style. 

I  have  had  a  very  busy  summer,  but  have  been  pretty 
well,  and  able  to  do  my  part  in  entertaining  the  four 
hundred  philosophers. 

Yours  truly, 

L.  M.  A. 

SEPTEMBER  17  [1879], 

DEAR  MRS.  DODGE,  — ...  Don't  let  me  prose.  If  I 
seem  to  be  declining  and  falling  into  it,  pull  me  up,  and 
I  '11  try  to  prance  as  of  old.  Years  tame  down  one's  spirit 
and  fancy,  though  they  only  deepen  one's  love  for  the 
little  people,  and  strengthen  the  desire  to  serve  them 
wisely  as  well  as  cheerfully.  Fathers  and  mothers  tell 
me  they  use  my  books  as  helps  for  themselves  ;  so  now 
and  then  I  like  to  slip  in  a  page  for  them,  fresh  from  the 
experience  of  some  other  parent,  for  education  seems  to 
me  to  be  the  problem  in  our  times. 

Jack  and  Jill  are  right  out  of  our  own  little  circle, 
and  the  boys  and  girls  are  in  a  twitter  to  know  what  is 
going  in ;  so  it  will  be  a  "  truly  story  "  in  the  main. 

Such  a  long  note  for  a  busy  woman  to  read  !  but  your 
cheery  word  was  my  best  "  starter ; '  and  I  'm,  more  than 


Yours  truly, 

L.  M.  A. 

304  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Born  at  Concord,  July,  1840.     Died  in  Paris,  December,  1879. 

This  younger  sister  became  so  dear  to  Louisa, 
and  through  the  legacy  which  she  left  to  her  of 
an  infant  child,  exercised  so  great  an  influence 
over  the  last  ten  years  of  her  life,  that  it  will  not 
be  uninteresting  to  trace  out  the  course  of  her  life 
and  the  development  of  her  character.  May  was 
born  before  the  experiments  at  Fruitlands,  and  her 
childhood  passed  during  the  period  when  the  for- 
tunes of  the  family  were  at  the  lowest  ebb ;  but 
she  was  too  young  to  feel  in  all  their  fulness  the 
cares  which  weighed  upon  the  older  sisters.  Her 
oldest  sister  —  the  affectionate,  practical  Anna  — 
almost  adopted  May  as  her  own  baby,  and  gave  her 
a  great  deal  of  the  attention  and  care  which  the 
mother  had  not  time  for  amid  her  numerous  avo- 
cations. The  child  clung  to  Anna  with  trust  and 
affection ;  but  with  her  quick  fancy  and  lively 
spirit,  she  admired  the  brilliant  qualities  of  Louisa. 
Hasty  in  temperament,  quick  and  impulsive  in  ac- 
tion, she  quarrelled  with  Louisa  while  she  adored 
her,  and  was  impatient  with  her  rebukes,  which  yet 
had  great  influence  over  her.  She  had  a  more 
facile  nature  than  the  other  sisters,  and  a  natural, 
girlish  love  of  attention,  and  a  romantic  fondness 
for  beauty  in  person  and  style  in  living.  Graceful 
in  figure  and  manners,  with  a  fine  complexion, 
blue  eyes,  and  a  profusion  of  light  wavy  hair,  she 
was  attractive  in  appearance ;  and  a  childish  frank- 
ness, and  acceptance  of  sympathy  or  criticism, 

Family  Changes.  305 

disarmed    those  who  were   disposed  to   find  fault 
with  her. 

May  is  very  truly  described  in  "  Little  Women," 
and  her  character  is  painted  with  a  discerning  but 
loving  hand :  "  A  regular  snow  maiden,  with  blue 
eyes,  and  yellow  hair  curling  on  her  shoulders,  pale 
and  slender,  and  always  carrying  herself  like  a 
young  lady  mindful  of  her  manners."  Many  little 
touches  of  description  show  the  consciousness  of 
appearance  and  love  of  admiration  which  she  inno- 
cently betrayed,  and  illustrate  the  relation  of  the 
sisters :  "  '  Don't  stop  to  quirk  your  little  finger 
and  prink  over  your  plate,  Amy/  cried  Jo."  Her 
mother  says  of  this  daughter  in  her  diary:  "She 
does  all  things  well ;  her  capabilities  are  much  in 
her  eyes  and  fingers.  When  a  child,  I  observed 
with  what  ease  and  grace  she  did  little  things." 

According  to  Louisa,  "  If  anybody  had  asked 
Amy  what  the  greatest  trial  of  her  life  was,  she 
would  have  answered  at  once,  '  My  nose/  No  one 
minded  it  but  herself,  and  it  was  doing  its  best  to 
grow ;  but  Amy  felt  deeply  the  want  of  a  Grecian 
nose,  and  drew  whole  sheets  of  handsome  ones  to 
console  herself."  "  Little  Raphael,"  as  the  sisters 
called  her,  very  early  developed  a  love  and  talent 
for  drawing  which  became  the  delight  of  her  life. 
She  covered  her  books  with  sketches,  but  managed 
to  escape  reprimand  by  being  a  model  of  deport- 
ment. Always  having  in  her  mind  an  ideal  of 
elegant  life,  the  many  little  trials  of  their  times  of 
poverty  were  of  course  severe  mortifications  to  her ; 
and  the  necessity  of  wearing  dresses  which  came 

to  her  from  others,  and  which  were  ugly  in  them- 


306  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

selves  or  out  of  harmony  with  her  own  appear- 
ance, caused  her  much  affliction.  She  was  always 
generous  and  easily  reconciled  after  a  quarrel,  and 
was  a  favorite  with  her  companions,  and  the  hero- 
ine of  those  innocent  little  love  episodes  which, 
as  Tennyson  says,  - 

"  Are  but  embassies  of  love 
To  tamper  with  the  feelings,  ere  he  found 
Empire  for  life."  1 

While  May  was  too  young  to  take  the  part  in 
the  support  of  the  family  which  fell  to  Anna  and 
Louisa,  she  was  yet  a  blessing  and  comfort  by  her 
kind,  bright  nature.  After  the  death  of  Elizabeth 
in  1858,  her  mother  speaks  of  "  turning  to  the  little 
May  for  comfort,"  and  her  father's  letters  show  how 
dear  she  was  to  him,  although  she  never  entered 
into  his  intellectual  life. 

May  shared  in  the  blessing  of  Louisa's  first  suc- 
cess, for  she  went  to  the  School  of  Design  in  1859 
for  the  lessons  in  her  art,  for  which  she  longed  so 
eagerly.  In  1860  an  old  friend  sent  her  thirty 
dollars  for  lessons  in  drawing,  and  she  had  the 
best  instruction  she  could  then  receive  in  Boston. 

In  1863,  Louisa  procured  for  her  the  great  ad- 
vantage of  study  with  Dr.  Rimmer,  who  was  then 
giving  his  precious  lessons  in  art  anatomy  in  Bos- 
ton. Under  his  instructions,  May  gave  some  at- 
tention to  modelling,  and  completed  an  ideal  bust. 
Although  she  did  not  pursue  this  branch  of  art,  it 
was  undoubtedly  of  great  service  in  giving  her 
more  thorough  knowledge  of  the  head,  and  a 

1  Gardener's  Daughter. 

Family  Changes.  307 

bolder  and  firmer  style  of  drawing  than  she  would 
have  gained  in  any  other  way. 

As  will  be  seen  from  Louisa's  journal,  May  was 
frequently  with  her  in  Boston,  engaged  in  studying 
or  teaching.  By  the  kindness  of  a  friend,  she  went 
to  Europe  in  1870,  when  Louisa  accompanied  her. 
Louisa  sent  her  to  Europe  for  a  year  of  study  in 
1873,  and  again  in  1877.  In  London  and  Paris  she 
had  good  opportunities  for  study,  and  improved 
rapidly  in  her  art.  She  made  some  admirable 
copies  from  Turner  which  attracted  the  attention 
of  Ruskin  ;  and  a  picture  from  still  life  was  accepted 
at  the  Paris  Salon,  which  event  gave  great  happi- 
ness to  the  family  circle  and  friends  at  home. 

May  was  very  generous  in  giving  to  others  help 
in  the  art  she  loved.  While  at  home,  in  the  inter- 
vals of  her  studies  in  Europe,  she  tried  to  form  an 
art  centre  in  Concord,  and  freely  gave  her  time, 
her  instruction,  and  the  use  of  her  studio  to  young 
artists.  She  wrote  a  little  book  to  aid  them  in 
prosecuting  their  studies  abroad,  called  "  Studying 
Art  Abroad,  and  How  to  do  it  Cheaply." 

Like  the  rest  of  the  family,  May  composed  with 
great  ease,  and  sometimes  wrote  little  stories.  Her 
letters  are  very  sprightly  and  agreeable. 

While  residing  in  London,  May  had  become 
acquainted  with  a  young  Swiss  gentleman,  whose 
refined  and  artistic  tastes  were  closely  in  unison 
with  her  own.  During  the  sad  days  of  bereave- 
ment caused  by  her  mother's  death  he  was  a  kind 
and  sympathetic  friend,  soothing  her  grief  and 
cheering  her  solitude  by  his  music.  Thus,  fre- 
quently together,  their  friendship  became  love,  and 

308  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

they  were  betrothed.  The  course  of  this  true  love, 
which  for  a  time  ran  swiftly  and  smoothly,  is  most 
exquisitely  depicted  in  May's  letters  to  her  family. 
The  charming  pictures  of  herself  and  her  young 
lover  are  so  like  Amy  and  her  Laurie  in  his  hap- 
piest moods,  that  we  almost  feel  as  if  Miss  Alcott 
had  been  prophetic  in  her  treatment  of  these  char- 
acters in  "  Little  Women." 

I  wish  I  could  give  her  own  natural,  frank  ac- 
count of  this  event.  May  had  the  secret  of  per- 
petual youth,  at  least  in  spirit;  and  in  reading  her 
letters,  one  has  no  consciousness  that  more  than 
thirty  years  had  passed  over  her  head,  for  they  had 
taken  no  drop  of  freshness  from  her  heart. 

The  union  of  this  happy  pair  was  not  a  surprise 
to  the  friends  at  home,  who  had  read  May's  heart, 
revealed  in  her  frank,  innocent  letters,  more  clearly 
than  she  had  supposed.  When  the  claims  of  busi- 
ness called  Mr.  Nieriker  from  London,  the  hearts 
of  the  young  couple  quailed  before  the  idea  of 
separation,  and  they  decided  to  be  married  at 
once,  and  go  together.  The  simple  ceremony  was 
performed  in  London,  March  22,  1878;  and  May 
started  on  her  journey,  no  longer  alone,  but  with  a 
loving  friend  by  her  side. 

May's  letters  are  full  of  the  most  artless  joy  in 
her  new  life.  The  old  days  of  struggle  and  penury 
are  gone ;  the  heart-loneliness  is  no  more ;  the 
world  is  beautiful,  and  everybody  loving  and  kind. 
Life  in  the  modest  French  home  is  an  idyllic 
dream,  and  she  writes  to  her  sisters  of  every  detail 
of  her  household.  The  return  of  her  husband  at 
sunset  is  a  feast,  and  the  evening  is  delightful  with 

Family   Changes.  309 

poetry  and  music.  Her  blue  dress,  her  crimson 
furniture,  satisfy  her  artistic  sense.  She  does  not 
neglect  her  art,  but  paints  with  fresh  inspiration, 
and  waits  for  his  criticism  and  praise.  She  says, 
"  He  is  very  ambitious  for  my  artistic  success,  and 
is  my  most  severe  critic."  In  the  morning  she 
finds  her  easel  set  out  for  her,  a  fire  burning  ready 
for  her  comfort,  and  her  husband  in  the  big  arm- 
chair waiting  to  read  to  her,  or  to  take  his  violin 
and  pose  for  his  picture  in  gray  velvet  paletot  and 
red  slippers.1 

For  the  time  conjugal  love  is  all  sufficient,  and 
May  wonders  at  herself  that  the  happiness  of  the 
moment  can  so  drown  every  remembrance  of  sor- 
row. Yet  a  pathetic  note  is  occasionally  heard,  as 
she  mourns  for  the  mother  who  is  gone,  or  yearns 
for  the  sister  who  has  been  such  a  strength  to  her 
through  life.  The  picturesqueness  and  ease  of 
French  life  make  America  look  stupid  and  forlorn, 
and  she  has  no  wish  to  go  home,  but  only  to  have 
her  dear  ones  share  in  her  happiness.  Her  work 
in  art  was  successful ;  and  the  money  she  received 
for  it  was  not  unacceptable,  although  her  husband's 
income  sufficed  for  their  modest  wants.  She  was 
justified  in  her  grateful  feeling  that  she  was  singu- 
larly blessed.  Her  husband's  family  were  German- 
Swiss  of  high  standing,  artistic  temperament,  and 
warm  affections.  His  mother  and  sister  came  to 
visit  them,  and  took  May  to  their  hearts  with 
cordial  love. 

Among  the  pictures  painted  by  May  at  this  time 
the  most  remarkable  is  the  portrait  of  a  negro  girl, 

1  This  interesting  picture  is  in  the  possession  of  her  sister. 

3io  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

which  is  a  very  faithful  study  from  life,  and  gives 
the  color  and  characteristic  traits  of  a  beautiful 
negro  without  exaggeration.  The  expression  of 
the  eyes  is  tender  and  pathetic,  well-suited  to  the 
fate  of  a  slave  girl.  Such  earnest  study  would  have 
borne  richer  fruit  if  longer  life  had  been  hers. 

May's  own  nature  seems  to  have  blossomed  out 
like  a  flower  in  this  sunny  climate.  In  her  youth 
at  home  she  was  impulsive,  affectionate,  and  gener- 
ous, but  quick  in  temper  and  sometimes  exacting; 
but  the  whole  impression  she  made  upon  her  hus- 
band and  his  family  was  of  grace  and  sweetness, 
and  she  herself  declares  that  her  sisters  at  home 
would  not  recognize  her,  she  has  "  become  so  sweet 
in  this  atmosphere  of  happiness." 

We  would  gladly  linger  over  these  records  of  a 
paradisiacal  home  where  Adam  and  Eve  renewed 
their  innocent  loves  and  happy  labors.  When 
musing  over  the  sorrows  of  humanity  it  refreshes 
us  to  know  that  such  joy  is  possible,  and  needs 
only  love  and  simple  hearts  to  make  it  real. 

May's  note  of  happiness  is  touchingly  echoed 
from  the  heart  of  her  bereaved  father,  wdio  recalls 
the  days  of  his  own  courtship.  He  cherished  every 
tender  word  from  her;  and  the  respectful  and  lov- 
ing words  of  his  new  son,  to  whom  he  responds 
affectionately,  were  like  balm  to  his  stricken  heart. 

May's  joy  was  heightened  by  the  expectation  of 
motherhood.  Her  health  was  excellent,  and  she 
had  the  loving  care  of  her  new  mother  and  sister. 
The  anxious  family  at  home  received  the  news  of 
the  birth  of  a  daughter  with  heartfelt  delight.  It 
was  a  great  disappointment  to  Louisa  that  she 

Family  Changes.  311 

could  not  be  with  her  sister  at  this  time ;  but  her 
health  was  not  equal  to  the  voyage,  and  she  felt 
that  May  had  most  loving  and  sufficient  care.  An 
American  friend  in  Paris  kindly  wrote  to  Louisa 
full  details  of  the  little  niece  and  of  the  mother's 
condition.  "  It  is  difficult,"  she  says,  "  to  say  which 
of  that  happy  household  is  the  proudest  over  that 
squirming  bit  of  humanity." 

For  about  two  weeks  all  seemed  well ;  but  alarm- 
ing symptoms  began  to  appear,  and  the  mother's 
strength  failed  rapidly.  The  brain  was  the  seat 
of  disease ;  and  she  was  generally  unconscious,  al- 
though she  had  intervals  of  apparent  improvement, 
when  she  recognized  her  friends.  She  passed  away 
peacefully  December  29,  1879. 

An  American  clergyman  in  Paris  took  charge  of 
the  funeral  service,  which  according  to  May's  ex- 
pressed desire  was  very  simple,  and  she  was  laid 
in  the  tranquil  cemetery  of  Montrouge  outside  of 
the  fortifications. 

Foreseeing  the  possibility  of  a  fatal  termination 
to  her  illness,  May  had  made  every  preparation  for 
the  event,  and  obtained  a  promise  from  her  sister- 
in-law  that  she  would  carry  the  baby  to  Louisa  to 
receive  the  devoted  care  that  she  knew  would  be 
given  it.  The  child  became  a  source  of  great 
comfort  to  Miss  Alcott  as  will  be  seen  from  the 
journals.  After  her  death  Mr.  Nieriker  visited  his 
little  girl  in  America,  and  in  June,  1889,  her  aunt 
took  her  to  his  home  in  Zurich,  Switzerland. 

Before  the  sad  letters  describing  May's  illness 
could  reach  America,  came  the  cable  message  of 
her  death.  It  was  sent  to  Mr.  Emerson,  the  never 

312  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

failing  friend  of  the  family,  who  bore  it  to  Louisa, 
her  father  being  temporarily  absent.  His  thought- 
fulness  softened  the  blow  as  much  as  human  ten- 
derness could,  but  still  it  fell  with  crushing  weight 
upon  them  all. 

The  father  and  sister  could  not  sleep,  and  in  the 
watches  of  the  night  he  wrote  that  touching  ode, 
the  cry  of  paternal  love  and  grief  entitled  "  Love's 

To  Mrs.  Bond. 

CONCORD,  Jan.  i,  1880. 

DEAR  AUNTIE,  —  It  is  hard  to  add  one  more  sorrow 
to  your  already  full  heart,  particularly  one  of  this  sort, 
but  I  did  not  want  you  to  hear  it  from  any  one  but  us. 
Dear  May  is  dead.  Gone  to  begin  the  new  year  with 
Mother,  in  a  world  where  I  hope  there  is  no  grief  like  this. 
Gone  just  when  she  seemed  safest  and  happiest,  after 
nearly  two  years  of  such  sweet  satisfaction  and  love  that 
she  wrote  us,  "  If  I  die  when  baby  comes,  remember  I 
have  been  so  unspeakably  happy  for  a  year  that  I  ought 
to  be  content  .  .  . ' 

And  it  is  all  over.  The  good  mother  and  sister  have 
done  everything  in  the  most  devoted  way.  We  can 
never  repay  them.  My  May  gave  me  her  little  Lulu,  and 
in  the  spring  I  hope  to  get  my  sweet  legacy.  Meantime 
the  dear  grandma  takes  her  to  a  home  full  of  loving 
friends  and  she  is  safe.  I  will  write  more  when  we  know, 
but  the  cruel  sea  divides  us  and  we  must  wait. 

Bless  you  dear  Auntie  for  all  your  love  for  May ;  she 
never  forgot  it,  nor  do  we. 

Yours  ever, 


Family  Changes.  313 


DEAR  AUNTIE,  —  I  have  little  further  news  to  tell,  but 
it  seems  to  comfort  me  to  answer  the  shower  of  tender 
sympathetic  letters  that  each  mail  brings  us.  ... 

So  we  must  wait  to  learn  how  the  end  came  at  last, 
where  the  dear  dust  is  to  lie,  and  how  soon  the  desolate 
little  home  is  to  be  broken  up.  It  only  remains  for 
May's  baby  to  be  taken  away  to  fill  our  cup  to  overflowing. 
But  perhaps  it  would  be  best  so,  for  even  in  Heaven 
with  Mother,  I  know  May  will  yearn  for  the  darling  so 
ardently  desired,  so  tenderly  welcomed,  bought  at  such 
a  price. 

In  all  the  troubles  of  my  life  I  never  had  one  so  hard 
to  bear,  for  the  sudden  fall  from  such  high  happiness  to 
such  a  depth  of  sorrow  finds  me  unprepared  to  accept  or 
bear  it  as  I  ought. 

Sometime  I  shall  know  why  such  things  are  ;  till  then  I 
must  try  to  trust  and  wait  and  hope  as  you  do.  .  .  .  Sor- 
row has  its  lonely  side,  and  sympathy  is  so  sweet  it  takes 
half  its  bitterness  away. 

Yours  ever,  L. 

After  May's  marriage  and  death  Louisa  remained 
awhile  in  Concord,  trying  to  forget  her  grief  in  care 
for  others.  She  went  to  the  prison  in  Concord, 
and  told  a  story  to  the  prisoners  which  touched 
their  hearts,  and  was  long  remembered  by  some  of 

She  wrote  some  short  stories  for  "  St.  Nicholas," 
among  them  "Jimmy's  Cruise  in  the  Pinafore," 
called  out  by  the  acting  of  the  popular  opera  of 
that  name  by  a  juvenile  troupe. 

She  spent  some  weeks  at  Willow  Cottage,  Mag- 
nolia, which  she  has  described  in  her  popular  story 

314  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

of  "  Jack  and  Jill."  The  scene  of  the  story  is 
mostly  laid  in  Concord,  or  "  Harmony '  as  she 
calls  it,  and  she  has  introduced  many  familiar 
scenes  and  persons  into  the  book. 

This  summer,  too,  the  long-dreamed  of  School 
of  Philosophy  was  established.  The  opening  of  the 
School  was  a  great  event  to  Mr.  Alcott,  as  it  was 
the  realization  of  the  dream  of  years.  Louisa  en- 
joyed his  gratification,  and  took  pains  to  help  him 
to  reap  full  satisfaction  from  it.  She  carried  flowers 
to  grace  the  opening  meeting,  and  was  friendly  to 
his  guests.  She  occasionally  attended  lectures 
given  by  her  friends,  —  Dr.  Bartol,  Mrs.  Howe,  and 
others,  -  -  and  she  could  not  fail  to  enjoy  meeting 
many  of  the  bright  people  who  congregated  there; 
but  she  did  not  care  for  the  speculative  philosophy. 
Her  keen  sense  of  humor  led  her  to  see  all  that 
was  incongruous  or  funny  or  simply  novel  in  the 
bearing  of  the  philosophers.  She  felt  that  her 
father  had  too  much  of  the  trying  details,  and  per- 
haps did  not  appreciate  how  much  joy  of  recogni- 
tion it  brought  him.  She  had  not  much  faith  in 
the  practical  success  of  the  experiment.  Philoso- 
phy was  much  associated  in  her  mind  with  early 
poverty  and  suffering,  and  she  did  not  feel  its 
charms.  She  was  usually  at  the  seashore  at  this 
season,  as  she  suffered  from  the  heat  at  Concord. 
Frequent  allusions  to  the  school  appear  in  her 
journal.  The  following  anecdote  is  given  by  a 

"  It  was  at  Concord  on  Emerson  day.  After  a 
morning  with  Bartol  and  Alcott  and  Mrs.  Howe,  I 
lunched  with  the  Alcotts',  who  had  for  guest  the 

Family  Changes.  315 

venerable  Dr.  McCosh.  Naturally  the  conversa- 
tion turned  on  the  events  of  the  morning.  '  I  was 
thinking,'  said  the  Doctor,  '  as  I  looked  among 
your  audience,  that  there  were  no  young  men ; 
and  that  with  none  but  old  men  your  school  would 
soon  die  with  them.  By  the  way,  madam,'  he  con- 
tinued, addressing  Miss  Alcott,  'will  you  tell  me 
what  is  your  definition  of  a  philosopher?' 

"  The  reply  came  instantly,  '  My  definition  is  of 
a  man  up  in  a  balloon,  with  his  family  and  friends 
holding  the  ropes  which  confine  him  to  earth  and 
trying  to  haul  him  down.' 

"  The  laugh  which  followed  this  reply  was 
heartily  joined  in  by  the  philosopher  himself." 


March,  1878.  —  A  happy  event,  —  May's  marriage  to 
Ernest  Nieriker,  the  "  tender  friend  "  who  has  consoled 
her  for  Marmee's  loss,  as  John  consoled  Nan  for  Beth's. 
He  is  a  Swiss,  handsome,  cultivated,  and  good ;  an  ex- 
cellent family  living  in  Baden,  and  E.  has  a  good  business. 
May  is  old  enough  to  choose  for  herself,  and  seems  so 
happy  in  the  new  relation  that  we  have  nothing  to  say 
against  it. 

They  were  privately  married  on  the  22d,  and  went  to 
Havre  for  the  honeymoon,  as  E.  had  business  in  France  ; 
so  they  hurried  the  wedding.  Send  her  $1,000  as  a  gift, 
and  all  good  wishes  for  the  new  life. 

April.  —  Happy  letters  from  May,  who  is  enjoying  life 
as  one  can  but  once.  E.  writes  finely  to  Father,  and  is 
a  son  to  welcome  I  am  sure.  May  sketches  and  E.  at- 
tends to  his  business  by  day,  and  both  revel  in  music  in 
the  evening,  as  E.  is  a  fine  violin  pViyer. 

316  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

How  different  our  lives  are  just  now  !  —  I  so  lonely, 
sad,  and  sick ;  she  so  happy,  well,  and  blest.  She  al- 
ways had  the  cream  of  things,  and  deserved  it.  My 
time  is  yet  to  come  somewhere  else,  when  I  am  ready 
for  it. 

Anna  clears  out  the  old  house ;  for  we  shall  never  go 
back  to  it ;  it  ceased  to  be  "  home  "  when  Marmee  left  it. 

I  dawdle  about,  and  wait  to  see  if  I  am  to  live  or  die. 
If  I  live,  it  is  for  some  new  work.  I  wonder  what  ? 

May.  —  Begin  to  drive  a  little,  and  enjoy  the  spring. 
Nature  is  always  good  to  me. 

May  settles  in  her  own  house  at  Meudon,  —  a  pretty 
apartment,  with  balcony,  garden,  etc.  ...  I  plan  and 
hope  to  go  to  them,  if  I  am  ever  well  enough,  and  find 
new  inspiration  in  a  new  life.  May  and  E.  urge  it,  and  I 
long  to  go,  but  cannot  risk  the  voyage  yet.  I  doubt  if  I 
ever  find  time  to  lead  my  own  life,  or  health  to  try  it. 

June  and  July.  —  Improving  fast,  in  spite  of  dark 
predictions  and  forebodings.  The  Lord  has  more  work 
for  me,  so  I  am  spared. 

Tried  to  write  a  memoir  of  Marmee ;  but  it  is  too 
soon,  and  I  am  not  well  enough. 

•  •••••••• 

May  has  had  the  new  mother  and  brother-in-law  with 
her,  and  finds  them  most  interesting  and  lovable.  They 
seem  very  proud  of  her,  and  happy  in  her  happiness. 
Bright  times  for  our  youngest !  May  they  last ! 

[They  did.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

•  •••••••• 

Got  nicely  ready  to  go  to  May  in  September ;  but  at 
the  last  moment  gave  it  up,  fearing  to  undo  all  the  good 
this  weary  year  of  ease  has  done  for  me,  and  be  a  bur- 
den on  her.  A  great  disappointment ;  but  I  Ve  learned 
to  wait.  I  long  to  see  her  happy  in  her  own  home. 

Family  Changes.  317 

Nan  breaks  her  leg ;  so  it  is  well  I  stayed,  as  there 
was  no  one  to  take  her  place  but  me.  Always  a  little 
chore  to  be  done. 

October,  November.  —  Nan  improved.  Rode,  nursed, 
kept  house,  and  tried  to  be  contented,  but  was  not. 
Make  no  plans  for  myself  now;  do  what  I  can,  and 
should  be  glad  not  to  have  to  sit  idle  any  longer. 

On  the  8th,  Marmee's  birthday,  Father  and  I  went  to 
Sleepy  Hollow  with  red  leaves  and  flowers  for  her.  A 
cold,  dull  day,  and  I  was  glad  there  was  no  winter  for 
her  any  more. 

November  2^th. — A  year  since  our  beloved  Marmee 
died.  A  very  eventful  year.  May  marries,  I  live  instead 
of  dying,  Father  comes  to  honor  in  his  old  age,  and  Nan 
makes  her  home  our  refuge  when  we  need  one. 

December.  —  A  busy  time.  Nan  gets  about  again.  I 
am  so  well  I  wonder  at  myself,  and  ask  no  more. 

Write  a  tale  for  the  "  Independent,"  and  begin  on  an 
art  novel,  with  May's  romance  for  its  thread.  Went  to 
B.  for  some  weeks,  and  looked  about  to  see  what  I 
could  venture  to  do.  .  .  . 

So  ends  1878,  —  a  great  contrast  to  last  December. 
Then  I  thought  I  was  done  with  life ;  now  I  can  enjoy 
a  good  deal,  and  wait  to  see  what  I  am  spared  to  do. 
Thank  God  for  both  the  sorrow  and  the  joy. 

January,  1879.  —  At  the  Bellevue  in  my  little  room 

Got  two  books  well  started,  but  had  too  many  inter- 
ruptions to  do  much,  and  dared  not  get  into  a  vortex  for 
fear  of  a  break-down. 

Went  about  and  saw  people,  and  tried  to  be  jolly. 
Did  Jarley  for  a  fair,  also  for  Authors'  Carnival  at  Music 
Hall.  A  queer  time ;  too  old  for  such  pranks.  A  sad 
heart  and  a  used-up  body  make  play  hard  work,  I  find. 

318  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Read  "Mary  Wollstonecraft,"  "Dosia,"  "  Danieli," 
"  Helene,"  etc.  I  like  Greville's  books. 

Invest  $1,000  for  Fred's  schooling,  etc.  Johnny  has 
his  $1,000  also  safely  in  the  bank  for  his  education  and 
any  emergency. 

February.  -  -  Home  to  Concord  rather  used  up.  Find 
a  very  quiet  life  is  best ;  for  in  B.  people  beset  me  to  do 
things,  and  I  try,  and  get  so  tired  I  cannot  work.  Dr.  C. 
says  rest  is  my  salvation ;  so  I  rest.  Hope  for  Paris  in 
the  spring,  as  May  begs  me  to  come.  She  is  leading 
what  she  calls  "  an  ideal  life,"  —  painting,  music,  love, 
and  the  world  shut  out.  People  wonder  and  gossip  ;  but 
M.  and  E.  laugh  and  are  happy.  Wise  people  to  enjoy 
this  lovely  time  ! 

Went  to  a  dinner,  at  the  Revere  House,  of  the  Papyrus 
Club.  Mrs.  Burnett  and  Miss  A.  were  guests  of  honor. 
Dr.  Holmes  took  me  in,  and  to  my  surprise  I  found  my- 
self at  the  president's  right  hand,  with  Mrs.  B.,  Holmes, 
Stedman,  and  the  great  ones  of  the  land.  Had  a  gay 
time.  Dr.  H.  very  gallant.  "  Little  Women  "  often 
toasted  with  more  praise  than  was  good  for  me. 

Saw  Mrs.  B.  at  a  lunch,  and  took  her  and  Mrs.  M.  M. 
Dodge  to  Concord  for  a  lunch.  Most  agreeable  women. 

A  visit  at  H.  W.'s.  Mission  time  at  Church  of  the 
Advent.  Father  Knox-Little  preached,  and  waked  up 
the  sinners.  H.  hoped  to  convert  me,  and  took  me  to 
see  Father  K.-L.,  a  very  interesting  man,  and  we  had  a 
pleasant  talk ;  but  I  found  that  we  meant  the  same  thing, 
though  called  by  different  names ;  and  his  religion  had 
too  much  ceremony  about  it  to  suit  me.  So  he  gave  me 
his  blessing,  and  promised  to  send  me  some  books. 

[Never  did.  —  L.  M.  A.] 

Pleasant  times  with  my  "  rainy- day  friend,"  as  I  call 
Dr.  W.  She  is  a  great  comfort  to  me,  with  her  healthy 

Family  Changes.  319 

common-sense  and  tender  patience,  aside  from  skill  as  a 
doctor  and  beauty  as  a  woman.  I  love  her  much,  and 
she  does  me  good. 


Happy  letters  from  May.  Her  hopes  of  a  little  son  or 
daughter  in  the  autumn  give  us  new  plans  to  talk  over. 
I  must  be  well  enough  to  go  to  her  then. 

April.  -  -  Very  poorly  and  cross ;  so  tired  of  being  a 
prisoner  to  pain.  Long  for  the  old  strength  when  I 
could  do  what  I  liked,  and  never  knew  I  had  a  body. 
Life  not  worth  living  in  this  way  ;  but  having  over- 
worked the  wonderful  machine,  I  must  pay  for  it,  and 
should  not  growl,  I  suppose,  as  it  is  just. 

To  B.  to  see  Dr.  S.  Told  me  I  was  better  than  she 
ever  dreamed  I  could  be,  and  need  not  worry.  So  took 
heart,  and  tried  to  be  cheerful,  in  spite  of  aches  and 
nerves.  Warm  weather  comforted  me,  and  green  grass 
did  me  good. 

Put  a  fence  round  A.'s  garden.  Bought  a  phaeton,  so 
I  might  drive,  as  I  cannot  walk  much,  and  Father  loves 
to  take  his  guests  about. 

May  and  June.  —  Go  to  B.  for  a  week,  but  don't 
enjoy  seeing  people.  Do  errands,  and  go  home  again. 
Saw  "  Pinafore  ;  "  a  pretty  play. 

Much  company. 

E.'s  looked  at  the  Orchard  House  and  liked  it ;  will 
hire  it,  probably.  Hope  so,  as  it  is  forlorn  standing 
empty.  I  never  go  by  without  looking  up  at  Marmee's 
window,  where  the  dear  face  used  to  be,  and  May's,  with 
the  picturesque  vines  round  it.  No  golden-haired,  blue- 
gowned  Diana  ever  appears  now;  she  sits  happily  sew- 
ing baby-clothes  in  Paris.  Enjoyed  fitting  out  a  box  of 
dainty  things  to  send  her.  Even  lonely  old  spinsters  take 
an  interest  in  babies. 

32O  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

June.  —  A  poor  month.  Try  to  forget  my  own  wor- 
ries, and  enjoy  the  fine  weather,  my  little  carriage,  and 
good  friends.  Souls  are  such  slaves  to  bodies  it  is  hard 
to  keep  up  out  of  the  slough  of  despond  when  nerves 
jangle  and  flesh  aches. 

Went  with  Father  on  Sunday  to  the  prison,  and  told 
the  men  a  story.  Thought  I  could  not  face  four  hun- 
dred at  first ;  but  after  looking  at  them  during  the  ser- 
mon, I  felt  that  I  could  at  least  amuse  them,  and  they 
evidently  needed  something  new.  So  I  told  a  hospital 
story  with  a  little  moral  to  it,  and  was  so  interested  in 
watching  the  faces  of  some  young  men  near  me,  who 
drank  in  every  word,  that  I  forgot  myself,  and  talked 
away  "like  a  mother."  One  put  his  head  down,  and 
another  winked  hard,  so  I  felt  that  I  had  caught  them  ; 
for  even  one  tear  in  that  dry,  hard  place  would  do 
them  good.  Miss  McC.  and  Father  said  it  was  well 
done,  and  I  felt  quite  proud  of  my  first  speech.  [Sequel 

July.  —  Wrote  a  little  tale  called  "Jimmy's  Cruise  in 
the  Pinafore,"  for  "  St.  Nicholas  ;  "  $100. 

\^th. —  The  philosophers  begin  to  swarm,  and  the  buzz 
starts  to-morrow.  How  much  honey  will  be  made  is  still 
doubtful,  but  the  hive  is  ready  and  drones  also. 

On  the  1 5th,  the  School  of  Philosophy  began  in  the 
study  at  Orchard  House,  —  thirty  students ;  Father,  the 
dean.  He  has  his  dream  realized  at  last,  and  is  in  glory, 
with  plenty  of  talk  to  swim  in.  People  laugh,  but  will 
enjoy  something  new  in  this  dull  old  town  ;  and  the  fresh 
Westerners  will  show  them  that  all  the  culture  of  the 
world  is  not  in  Concord.  I  had  a  private  laugh  when 
Mrs. asked  one  of  the  new-comers,  with  her  supe- 
rior air,  if  she  had  ever  looked  into  Plato.  And  the 
modest  lady  from  Jacksonville  answered,  with  a  twinkle 

Family  Changes.  321 

at  me,  "We  have  been  reading  Plato  in  Greek  for  the 
past  six  years."     Mrs. subsided  after  that. 

[Oh,  wicked  L.  M.  A.,  who  hates  sham  and  loves  a  joke. 

—  L.  M.  A.] 

Was  the  first  woman  to  register  my  name  as  a  voter. 

August.  —  To  B.  with  a  new  "  Scrap  Bag."  "  Jimmy  " 
to  the  fore.  Wrote  a  little  tale. 

The  town  swarms  with  budding  philosophers,  and  they 
roost  on  our  steps  like  hens  waiting  for  corn.  Father 
revels  in  it,  so  we  keep  the  hotel  going,  and  try  to  look 
as  if  we  liked  it.  If  they  were  philanthropists,  I  should 
enjoy  it ;  but  speculation  seems  a  waste  of  time  when 
there  is  so  much  real  work  crying  to  be  done.  Why 
discuss  the  "  unknowable  '  till  our  poor  are  fed  and  the 
wicked  saved? 

A  young  poet  from  New  York  came  ;  nice  boy. 

Sixteen  callers  to-day.  Trying  to  stir  up  the  women 
about  suffrage  •  so  timid  and  slow. 

Happy  letters  from  May.  Sophie  N.  is  with  her  now. 
All  well  in  the  Paris  nest. 

Passed  a  week  in  Magnolia  with  Mrs.  H.  School 
ended  for  this  year.  Hallelujah  ! 

September.  —  Home  from  the  seaside  refreshed,  and  go 
to  work  on  a  new  serial  for  "  St.  Nicholas,"  —  "  Jack  and 
Jill."  Have  no  plan  yet  but  a  boy,  a  girl,  and  a  sled,  with 
an  upset  to  start  with.  Vague  idea  of  working  in  Concord 
young  folks  and  their  doings.  After  two  years  of  rest,  I 
am  going  to  try  again ;  it  is  so  easy  to  make  money  now,  • 
and  so  pleasant  to  have  it  to  give.  A  chapter  a  day  is 
my  task,  and  not  that  if  I  feel  tired.  No  more  fourteen 
hours  a  day ;  make  haste  slowly  now. 

Drove  about  and  drummed  up  women  to  my  suffrage 
meeting.  So  hard  to  move  people  out  of  the  old  ruts. 


322  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

I  have  n't  patience  enough ;  if  they  won't  see  and  work, 
I  let  'em  alone,  and  steam  along  my  own  way. 

May  sent  some  nice  little  letters  of  an  "  Artist's  Holi- 
day," and  I  had  them  printed ;  also  a  book  for  artists 
abroad,  —  very  useful,  and  well  done.  / 

Eight  chapters  done.     Too  much  company  for  work. 

October  8t/i.  —  Dear  Marmee's  birthday.  Never  for- 
gotten. Lovely  day.  Go  to  Sleepy  Hollow  with  flowers. 
Her  grave  is  green ;  blackberry  vines  with  red  leaves 
trail  over  it.  A  little  white  stone  with  her  initials  is  at 
the  head,  and  among  the  tall  grass  over  her  breast  a  little 
bird  had  made  a  nest ;  empty  now,  but  a  pretty  symbol 
of  the  refuge  that  tender  bosom  always  was  for  all  feeble 
and  sweet  things.  Her  favorite  asters  bloomed  all  about, 
and  the  pines  sang  overhead.  So  she  and  dear  Beth  are 
quietly  asleep  in  God's  acre,  and  we  remember  them 
more  tenderly  with  each  year  that  brings  us  nearer  them 
and  home. 

Went  with  Dr.  W.  to  the  Woman's  Prison,  at  Sher- 
burne.  A  lovely  drive,  and  very  remarkable  day  and 
night.  Read  a  story  to  the  four  hundred  women,  and 
heard  many  interesting  tales.  A  much  better  place  than 
Concord  Prison,  with  its  armed  wardens,  and  "  knock 
down  and  drag  out ':'  methods.  Only  women  here,  and 
they  work  wonders  by  patience,  love,  common-sense,  and 
the  belief  in  salvation  for  all. 

First  proof  from  Scribner  of  "Jack  and  Jill."  Mrs.  D. 
likes  the  story,  so  I  peg  away  very  slowly.  Put  in  Elly 
D.  as  one  of  my  boys.  The  nearer  I  keep  to  nature, 
the  better  the  work  is.  Young  people  much  interested 
in  the  story,  and  all  want  to  "  go  in."  I  shall  have  a 
hornet's  nest  about  me  if  all  are  not  angels. 

Father  goes  West. 

I  mourn  much  because  all  say  I  must  not  go  to  May ; 

Family  Changes.  323 

not  safe ;  and  I  cannot  add  to  Mamma  Nieriker's  cares 
at  this  time  by  another  invalid,  as  the  voyage  would  upset 
me,  I  am  so  sea-sick. 

Give  up  my  hope  and  long-cherished  plan  with  grief. 
May  sadly  disappointed.  I  know  I  shall  wish  I  had 
gone  ;  it  is  my  luck. 

November.  —  Went  to  Boston  for  a  month,  as  some 
solace  for  my  great  disappointment.  Take  my  room  at 
the  Bellevue,  and  go  about  a  little.  Write  on  "  J.  and  J." 
Anxious  about  May. 

8//z.  —  Little  Louisa  May  Nieriker  arrived  in  Paris  at 
9  P.  M.,  after  a  short  journey.  All  doing  well.  Much 
rejoicing.  Nice  little  lass,  and  May  very  happy.  Ah,  if 
I  had  only  been  there  !  Too  much  happiness  for  me. 

25 th.  —  Two  years  since  Marmee  went.  How  she 
would  have  enjoyed  the  little  granddaughter,  and  all 
May's  romance  !  Perhaps  she  does. 

Went  home  on  my  birthday  (forty-seven).  Tried  to 
have  a  little  party  for  Nan  and  the  boys,  but  it  was 
rather  hard  work. 

Not  well  enough  to  write  much,  so  give  up  my  room. 
Can  lie  round  at  home,  and  it 's  cheaper. 

December.  —  May  not  doing  well.  The  weight  on  my 
heart  is  not  all  imagination.  She  was  too  happy  to  have 
it  last,  and  I  fear  the  end  is  coming.  Hope  it  is  my 
nerves ;  but  this  peculiar  feeling  has  never  misled  me 

Invited  to  the  breakfast  to  O.  W.  H.    No  heart  to  go. 

8//j.  —  Little  Lu  one  month  old.  Small,  but  lively. 
Oh,  if  I  could  only  be  there  to  see,  —  to  help  !  This  is 
a  penance  for  all  my  sins.  Such  a  tugging  at  my  heart 
to  be  by  poor  May,  alone,  so  far  away.  The  N.'s  are 
devoted,  and  all  is  done  that  can  be ;  but  not  one  of  her 
"very  own"  is  there. 

324  Louisa  May  Alcott, 

Father  came  home. 

29//z.  —  May  died  at  8  A.  M.,  after  three  weeks  of  fever 
and  stupor.  Happy  and  painless  most  of  the  time.  At 
Mr.  W.'s  funeral  on  the  3oth,  \felt  the  truth  before  the 
news  came. 

Wednesday,  31^.  —  A  dark  day  for  us.  A  telegram 
from  Ernest  to  Mr.  Emerson  tells  us  "May  is  dead." 
Anna  was  gone  to  B. ;  Father  to  the  post-office,  anxious 
for  letters,  the  last  being  overdue.  I  was  alone  when 
Mr.  E.  came.  E.  sent  to  him,  knowing  I  was  feeble,  and 
hoping  Mr.  E.  would  soften  the  blow.  I  found  him  look- 
ing at  May's  portrait,  pale  and  tearful,  with  the  paper  in 
his  hand.  "  My  child,  I  wish  I  could  prepare  you ;  but 
alas,  alas  !  "  There  his  voice  failed,  and  he  gave  me  the 

I  was  not  surprised,  and  read  the  hard  words  as  if 
I  knew  it  all  before.  "  I  am  prepared,"  I  said,  and 
thanked  him.  He  was  much  moved  and  very  tender. 
I  shall  remember  gratefully  the  look,  the  grasp,  the  tears 
he  gave  me  ;  and  I  am  sure  that  hard  moment  was  made 
bearable  by  the  presence  of  this  our  best  and  tenderest 
friend.  He  went  to  find  Father  but  missed  him,  and 
I  had  to  tell  both  him  and  Anna  when  they  came.  A 
very  bitter  sorrow  for  all. 

The  dear  baby  may  comfort  E.,  but  what  can  comfort 
us?  It  is  the  distance  that  is  so  hard,  and  the  thought 
of  so  much  happiness  ended  so  soon.  "Two  years  of 
perfect  happiness  "  May  called  these  married  years,  and 
said,  "  If  I  die  when  baby  comes,  don't  mourn,  for  I 
have  had  as  much  happiness  in  this  short  time  as  many 
in  twenty  years."  She  wished  me  to  have  her  baby  and 
her  pictures.  A  very  precious  legacy  !  Rich  payment 
for  the  little  I  could  do  for  her.  I  see  now  why  I  lived, — 
to  care  for  May's  child  and  not  leave  Anna  all  alone. 

Family  Changes.  325 

January  \st,  1880.  —  A  sad  day  mourning  for  May. 
Of  all  the  trials  in  my  life  I  never  felt  any  so  keenly  as 
this,  perhaps  because  I  am  so  feeble  in  health  that  I 
cannot  bear  it  well.  It  seems  so  hard  to  break  up  that 
happy  little  home  and  take  May  just  when  life  was  rich- 
est, and  to  leave  me  who  had  done  my  task  and  could 
well  be  spared.  Shall  I  ever  know  why  such  things 

Letters  came  telling  us  all  the  sad  story.  May  was 
unconscious  during  the  last  weeks,  and  seemed  not  to 
suffer.  Spoke  now  and  then  of  "getting  ready  for 
Louy,"  and  asked  if  she  had  come.  All  was  done  that 
love  and  skill  could  do,  but  in  vain.  E.  is  broken- 
hearted, and  good  Madame  N.  and  Sophie  find  their 
only  solace  in  the  poor  baby. 

May  felt  a  foreboding,  and  left  all  ready  in  case  she 
died.  Some  trunks  packed  for  us,  some  for  the  N. 
sisters.  Her  diary  written  up,  all  in  order.  Even  chose 
the  graveyard  where  she  wished  to  be,  out  of  the  city. 
E.  obeys  all  her  wishes  sacredly. 

Tried  to  write  on  "J.  and  J."  to  distract  my  mind  ; 
but  the  wave  of  sorrow  kept  rolling  over  me,  and  I  could 
only  weep  and  wait  till  the  tide  ebbed  again. 

February.  —  More  letters  from  E.  and  Madame  N. 
Like  us,  they  find  comfort  in  writing  of  the  dear  soul 
gone,  now  there  is  nothing  more  to  do  for  her.  I  cannot 
make  it  true  that  our  May  is  dead,  lying  far  away  in  a 
strange  grave,  leaving  a  husband  and  child  whom  we 
have  never  seen.  It  all  reads  like  a  pretty  romance, 
now  death  hath  set  its  seal  on  these  two  happy  years ; 
and  we  shall  never  know  all  that  she  alone  could 
tell  us. 

Many  letters  from  friends  in  France,  England,  and 
America,  full  of  sympathy  for  us,  and  love  and  pride  and 

326  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

gratitude  for  May,  who  was  always  glad  to  help,  forgive, 
and  love  every  one.     It  is  our  only  consolation  now. 

Father  and  I  cannot  sleep,  but  he  and  I  make  verses 
as  we  did  when  Marmee  died.  Our  grief  seems  to  flow 
into  words.  He  writes  "  Love's  Morrow  "  and  "  Our 

Lulu  has  gone  to  Baden  with  Grandmamma. 

Finish  "J.  and  J."  The  world  goes  on  in  spite  of 
sorrow,  and  I  must  do  my  work.  Both  these  last  serials 
were  written  with  a  heavy  heart,  —  "  Under  the  Lilacs  " 
when  Marmee  was  failing,  and  "Jack  and  Jill"  while 
May  was  dying.  Hope  the  grief  did  not  get  into 

Hear  R.  W.  E.  lecture  for  his  one  hundredth  time. 
Mary  Clemmer  writes  for  a  sketch  of  my  life  for  a  book 
of  "  Famous  Women."  Don't  belong  there. 

Read  "  Memoirs  of  Madame  de  Remusat."  Not  very 
interesting.  Beauties  seldom  amount  to  much.  Plain 
Margaret  Fuller  was  worth  a  dozen  of  them.  "  Kings  in 
Exile,"  a  most  interesting  book,  a  very  vivid  and  terrible 
picture  of  Parisian  life  and  royal  weakness  and  sorrow. 

Put  papers,  etc.,  in  order.  I  feel  as  if  one  should 
be  ready  to  go  at  any  moment.  .  .  . 

March.  —  A  box  came  from  May,  with  pictures, 
clothes,  vases,  her  ornaments,  a  little  work-basket,  and, 
in  one  of  her  own  sepia  boxes,  her  pretty  hair  tied  with 
blue  ribbon,  —  all  that  is  now  left  us  of  this  bright  soul 
but  the  baby,  soon  to  come.  Treasures  all. 

A  sad  day,  and  many  tears  dropped  on  the  dear  dress, 
the  blue  slippers  she  last  wore,  the  bit  of  work  she  laid 
down  when  the  call  came  the  evening  Lulu  was  born. 
The  fur-lined  sack  feels  like  May's  arms  round  me,  and 
I  shall  wear  it  with  pleasure.  The  pictures  show  us  her 
great  progress  these  last  years. 

Family  Changes.  327 

To  Boston  for  a  few  days  on  business,  and  to  try  to  for- 
get. Got  gifts  for  Anna's  birthday  on  the  i6th,  —  forty- 
nine  years  old.  My  only  sister  now,  and  the  best  God 
ever  made.  Repaired  her  house  for  her. 

Lulu  is  not  to  come  till  autumn.  Great  disappoint- 
ment ;  but  it  is  wiser  to  wait,  as  summer  is  bad  for  a 
young  baby  to  begin  here. 

29/7*.  — Town  meeting.  Twenty  women  there,  and 
voted  first,  thanks  to  Father.  Polls  closed,  —  in  joke, 
we  thought,  as  Judge  Hoar  proposed  it ;  proved  to  be 
in  earnest,  and  we  elected  a  good  school  committee. 
Quiet  time ;  no  fuss. 

JANUARY  20,  iSSo. 

DEAR  MRS.  DODGE,  —  I  have  been  so  bowed  down 
with  grief  at  the  loss  of  my  dear  sister  just  when  our 
anxiety  was  over  that  I  have  not  had  a  thought  or  care 
for  anything  else. 

The  story  is  done  ;  but  the  last  chapters  are  not  copied, 
and  I  thought  it  best  to  let  them  lie  till  I  could  give  my 
mind  to  the  work. 

I  never  get  a  good  chance  to  do  a  story  without 
interruption  of  some  sort.  "  Under  the  Lilacs  "  was  fin- 
ished by  my  mother's  bedside  in  her  last  illness,  and  this 
one  when  my  heart  was  full  of  care  and  hope  and  then 
grief  over  poor  May. 

I  trust  the  misery  did  not  get  into  the  story ;  but  I  'm 
afraid  it  is  not  as  gay  as  I  meant  most  of  it  to  be. 

I  forgot  to  number  the  pages  of  the  last  two  chapters, 
and  so  cannot  number  these.  I  usually  keep  the  run,  but 
this  time  sent  off  the  parcel  in  a  hurry.  Can  you  send 
me  the  right  number  to  go  on  with  in  chapter  seventeen  ? 
I  can  send  you  four  more  as  soon  as  I  hear. 

I  don't  believe  I  shall  come  to  New  York  this  winter. 

328  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

May  left  me  her  little  daughter  for  my  own ;  and  if  she 
comes  over  soon,  I  shall  be  too  busy  singing  lullabies  to 
one  child  to  write  tales  for  others,  or  go  anywhere,  even 
to  see  my  kind  friends. 

A  sweeter  little  romance  has  just  ended  in  Paris  than 
any  I  can  ever  make ;  and  the  sad  facts  of  life  leave  me 
no  heart  for  cheerful  fiction. 

Yours  truly,  L.  M.  ALCOTT. 




(Written  October,  1886.) 

COURAGE  and  patience,  these  I  ask, 
Dear  Lord,  in  this  my  latest  strait ; 

For  hard  I  find  my  ten  years'  task, 
Learning  to  suffer  and  to  wait. 

Life  seems  so  rich  and  grand  a  thing, 
So  full  of  work  for  heart  and  brain, 

It  is  a  cross  that  I  can  bring 
No  help,  no  offering,  but  pain. 

The  hard-earned  harvest  of  these  years 

I  long  to  generously  share  ; 
The  lessons  learned  with  bitter  tears 

To  teach  again  with  tender  care ; 

To  smooth  the  rough  and  thorny  way 
Where  other  feet  begin  to  tread  ; 

To  feed  some  hungry  soul  each  day 
\Yith  sympathy's  sustaining  bread. 

So  beautiful  such  pleasures  show, 

1  long  to  make  them  mine ; 
To  love  and  labor  and  to  know 

The  joy  such  living  makes  divine. 

But  if  I  may  not,  I  will  only  ask 
Courage  and  patience  for  my  fate, 

And  learn,  dear  Lord,  thy  latest  task,  - 
To  suffer  patiently  and  wait. 

33O  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

early  part  of  the  year  1880  was  in  the 
JL  deep  shadow  of  sadness,  from  the  death  of 
Louisa's  sister.  Boxes  full  of  May's  pictures, 
clothes,  and  books  came  home  to  call  up  anew 
all  the  memories  of  the  bright  spirit  who  had 
blossomed  into  such  beautiful  life  so  quickly  to 
fade  away. 

Miss  Alcott  tried  to  rise  above  her  grief  and 
busy  herself  with  new  interests.  She  took  an  ac- 
tive part  in  the  voting  of  the  women  in  Concord, 
and  rejoiced  in  the  election  of  a  good  school  com- 
mittee. In  April  she  returned  to  her  old  rooms  at 
the  Bellevue,  where  she  busied  herself  with  drama- 
tizing "  Michael  Strogoff,"  which  she  never  com- 
pleted. She  kept  up  her  interest  in  young  girls, 
and  received  with  pleasure  a  visit  from  thirty  pupils 
of  the  Boston  University,  and  she  helped  to  give 
the  children  of  the  North  End  Mission  a  happy 
day  at  Walden  Pond.  She  went  to  York  for  rest 
and  refreshment  during  the  summer.  Her  heart 
was  filled  with  longing  for  the  child,  and  every- 
thing was  done  with  reference  to  its  coming. 

As  September  brought  cooler  weather,  over  the 
sea  came  the  little  babe  to  the  warm  hearts  that  were 
longing  to  welcome  her.  No  woman  as  true  and 
loving  as  Louisa  Alcott  but  has  the  mother-nature 
strong  in  her  heart  ;  and  she  could  not  help  feeling 
a  new  spring  of  love  and  life  when  the  child  of  one 
so  dear  was  put  into  her  arms  to  be  her  very  own. 
Rosy  and  healthy,  full  of  life  and  energy,  -  -  not  a 
model  of  sainthood,  but  a  real  human  nature,  with 
a  will  to  be  regulated,  not  broken,  with  impulses  to 
be  trained,  talents  and  tendencies  to  be  studied, 

Last  Years.  331 

and  a  true,  loving  heart  to  be  filled  with  joy, — 
Louisa  found  the  child  a  constant  source  of  inter- 
est and  pleasure.  She  brought  her  up  as  she  her- 
self had  been  trained,  —  more  by  influences  than 
by  rules,  —  and  sought  to  follow  the  leadings  which 
she  found  in  the  young  nature  rather  than  to  make 
it  over  after  a  plan  of  her  own.  This  new  care  and 
joy  helped  to  fill  up  the  void  in  her  life  from  the 
loss  of  the  mother  for  whom  she  had  worked  so 
faithfully  and  the  pet  sister  to  whom  she  had  ever 
been  a  good  providence. 

The  principal  interest  of  the  next  few  years  was 
the  care  of  this  child.  It  was  a  pleasant  occupation 
to  Louisa,  occupying  her  heart,  and  binding  her 
with  new  ties  to  younger  generations.  The  journal 
tells  all  the  simple  story  of  the  "  voyage  across 
the  seas." 

Miss  Alcott  was  very  attractive  to  children,  es- 
pecially to  the  little  ones,  who  thronged  about  her 
and  pleaded  for  stories ;  but  this  was  the  first  one 
who  ever  really  filled  the  mother-longing  in  her 
heart.  She  was  now  truly  a  "  marmee ;  '  and  re- 
membering the  blessing  which  her  own  mother 
had  been  to  her,  her  standard  of  motherhood  must 
have  been  very  high.  Much  care  was  now  also 
given  to  her  father,  and  she  speaks  with  pride  of 
her  handsome  old  philosopher  in  his  new  suit  of 

Miss  Alcott  was  gratified  by  a  visit  from  one  of 
the  men  to  whom  she  had  spoken  at  Concord 
Prison.  He  told  her  his  story,  and  she  assisted 
him  to  find  work,  and  had  the  satisfaction  of  hear- 
ing of  his  well-doing. 

332  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

There  is  little  record  of  writing  done  at  this 
period,  Louisa's  time  and  thoughts  being  absorbed 
by  the  child.  In  the  autumn  of  iSSi  she  wrote  a 
preface  to  a  new  edition  of  the  "  Prayers  of  Theo- 
dore Parker,"  and  also  one  to  the  new  edition  of 

Louisa  kept  the  birthdays  of  November,  though 
with  saddened  heart.  She  wrote  a  tale  for  the 
Soldiers'  Home,  —  "  My  Red  Cap,"  in  "  Proverb 
Stories,"  —  and  another  for  the  New  England  Hos- 
pital fair,  —  "  A  Baby's  Birthday ;  "  and  also  one  for 
her  old  publisher.  Such  was  the  feeling  toward 
her  as  a  universal  benefactor,  that  a  poor  woman 
wrote  her  begging  her  to  send  some  Christmas 
gifts  to  her  children,  as  they  had  asked  her  to 
write  to  Santa  Claus  for  some.  With  Lulu's  help 
she  got  up  a  box  for  the  poor  family,  and  then 
made  a  story  out  of  the  incident,  for  which  she 
received  a  hundred  dollars. 

A  new  project  was  that  of  a  temperance  society, 
which  was  felt  to  be  needed  in  Concord. 

Louisa  occupied  herself  much  in  looking  over 
her  mother's  papers,  and  unfortunately  destroyed 
them,  instead  of  preparing  a  memoir  of  her  as  she 
had  intended  to  do.  It  is  a  matter  of  great  regret 
that  she  did  not  feel  able  to  do  this  work,  for  Mrs. 
Alcott's  letters  would  have  been  a  most  valuable 
record  of  the  life  of  her  time,  as  well  as  a  treasury 
of  bright  thought  and  earnest  feeling.  Louisa  was 
not  willing  to  commit  the  task  to  any  other  hand, 
and  the  opportunity  is  gone. 

Last  Years.  333 

To  Mrs.  Dodge. 

CONCORD,  May  29. 

DEAR  MRS.  DODGE,  —  I  was  away  from  home,  so  your 
letter  did  not  reach  me  till  I  got  back  yesterday. 

Thanks  for  your  kind  thought  of  me,  and  recollections 
of  the  pleasant  week  when  the  L.  L.'s  had  a  lark.  I 
should  like  another ;  but  in  this  work-a-day  world  busy 
folk  don't  get  many,  as  we  know. 

If  I  write  a  serial,  you  shall  have  it ;  but  I  have  my 
doubts  as  to  the  leisure  and  quiet  needed  for  such  tasks 
being  possible  with  a  year-old  baby.  Of  course  little 
Lu  is  a  very  remarkable  child,  but  I  fancy  I  shall  feel  as 
full  of  responsibility  as  a  hen  with  one  chick,  and  cluck 
and  scratch  industriously  for  the  sole  benefit  of  my 

She  may,  however,  have  a  literary  turn,  and  be  my 
assistant,  by  offering  hints  and  giving  studies  of  character 
for  my  work.  She  comes  in  September,  if  well. 

If  I  do  begin  a  new  story,  how  would  "  An  Old-Fashion- 
ed Boy  "  and  his  life  do?  I  meant  that  for  the  title  of  a 
book,  but  another  woman  took  it.  You  proposed  a  revo- 
lutionary tale  once,  but  I  was  not  up  to  it ;  for  this  I 
have  quaint  material  in  my  father's  journals,  letters,  and 
recollections.  He  was  born  with  the  century,  and  had 
an  uncle  in  the  war  of  1812  ;  and  his  life  was  very  pretty 
and  pastoral  in  the  early  days.  I  think  a  new  sort  of 
story  would  n't  be  amiss,  with  fun  in  it,  and  the  queer  old 
names  and  habits.  I  began  it  long  ago,  and  if  I  have  a 
chance  will  finish  off  a  few  chapters  and  send  them  to 
you,  if  you  like. 

Yours  cordially, 

L.  M.  ALCOTT. 

334  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

To  Mr.  Niles,  about  the  new  illustrated  edition  of 

"Little  Women" 

YORK,  July  20,  iSSo. 

The  drawings  are  all  capital,  and  we  had  great  fun 
over  them  down  here  this  rainy  day.  .  .  .  Mr.  Merrill 
certainly  deserves  a  good  penny  for  his  work.  Such  a 
fertile  fancy  and  quick  hand  as  his  should  be  well  paid, 
and  I  shall  not  begrudge  him  his  well-earned  compensa- 
tion, nor  the  praise  I  am  sure  these  illustrations  will  earn. 
It  is  very  pleasant  to  think  that  the  lucky  little  story  has 
been  of  use  to  a  fellow-worker,  and  I  am  much  obliged 
to  him  for  so  improving  on  my  hasty  pen-and-ink 
sketches.  What  a  dear  rowdy  boy  Teddy  is  with  the 
felt  basin  on  ! 

The  papers  are  great  gossips,  and  never  get  anything 
quite  straight,  and  I  do  mean  to  set  up  my  own  estab- 
lishment in  Boston  (D.  V.).  Now  I  have  an  excuse  for 
a  home  of  my  own,  and  as  the  other  artistic  and  literary 
spinsters  have  a  house,  I  am  going  to  try  the  plan,  for  a 
winter  at  least. 

Come  and  see  how  cosey  we  are  next  October  at  81 
Pinckney  Street.  Miss  N.  will  receive. 

Yours  truly,  L.  M.  A. 

To  Mrs.  Dodge. 

8 1  PINCKNEY  STREET,  1880. 

DEAR  MRS.  DODGE,  -  The  editor  of  "  Harper's  Young 
People  "  asked  for  a  serial,  and  I  declined ;  then  they 
wanted  a  short  story  for  Christmas,  and  I  sent  one.  But 
it  was  not  long  enough,  though  longer  than  most  of  my 
short  $100  tales. 

Last  Years.  335 

So  I  said,  "  If  you  don't  want  it,  send  it  to  '  Saint 
Nicholas.'  " 

Therefore  if  "  How  It  Happened ':  comes  straying 
along,  you  will  know  what  it  means.  If  you  don't  want 
it,  please  send  it  to  me  in  Boston,  81  Pinckney  Street; 
for  Christmas  tales  are  always  in  demand,  and  I  have  no 
time  to  write  more. 

You  will  like  to  know  that  my  baby  is  safely  here,  —  a 
healthy,  happy  little  soul,  who  comes  like  sunshine  to  our 
sad  hearts,  and  takes  us  all  captive  by  her  winning  ways 
and  lovely  traits. 

I  shall  soon  be  settled  for  the  winter,  and  I  hope  have 
good  times  after  the  hard  ones. 

Affectionately  yours, 

L.  M.  A. 


April,  1880.  —  So  sad  and  poorly;  wrent  to  B.  for  a 
change.  Old  room  at  the  Bellevue. 

Amused  myself  dramatizing  "  Michael  Strogoff ;  "  read, 
walked,  and  rested.  Reporters  called  for  story  of  my 
life ;  did  not  get  much.  Made  my  will,  dividing  all  I 
have  between  Nan  and  the  boys,  with  Father  as  a  legacy 
to  Nan,  and  to  Lulu  her  mother's  pictures  and  small 
fortune  of  $500. 

May.  —  Thirty  girls  from  Boston  University  called ; 
told  stories,  showed  pictures,  wrote  autographs.  Pleas- 
ant to  see  so  much  innocent  enthusiasm,  even  about  so 
poor  a  thing  as  a  used-up  old  woman.  Bright  girls  ! 
simple  in  dress,  sensible  ideas  of  life,  and  love  of  educa- 
tion. I  wish  them  all  good  luck. 

Ordered  a  stone  for  May's  grave  like  Marmee's  and 
Beth's,  for  some  day  I  hope  to  bring  her  dust  home. 

336  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Twenty- third  is  the  anniversary  of  Mother's  wedding.  If 
she  had  lived,  it  would  have  been  the  golden  wedding. 

Went  to  see  St.  Botolph's  Club  rooms.  Very  prim  and 
neat,  with  easy  chairs  everywhere ;  stained  glass,  and  a 
pious  little  bar,  with  nothing  visible  but  a  moral  ice- 
pitcher  and  a  butler  like  a  bishop.  The  reverend  gentle- 
men will  be  comfortable  and  merry,  I  fancy,  as  there  is 
a  smoking-room  and  card-tables,  as  well  as  a  library  and 
picture-gallery.  Divines  nowadays  are  not  as  godly  as  in 
old  times,  it  seems. 

Mrs.  Dodge  wants  a  new  serial,  but  I  doubt  if  I  can 
do  it ;  boys,  babies,  illness,  and  business  of  all  sorts  leave 
no  time  for  story- telling. 

June.  —  We  all  enjoy  the  new  rooms  very  much,  and 
Father  finds  his  study  delightful.  Prepare  the  Orchard 
House  for  W.  T.  Harris,  who  is  to  rent  it. 

North  End  Mission  children  at  Walden  Pond.  Help 
give  them  a  happy  day,  —  eleven  hundred  of  them.  Get 
Anna  and  John  off  to  Walpole.  Cleaned  house. 

Madame  N.  sends  a  picture  of  Lulu,  —  a  funny,  fat 
little  thing  in  her  carriage.  Don't  realize  that  it  is  May's 
child,  and  that  she  is  far  away  in  a  French  cemetery, 
never  to  come  home  to  us  again. 

It  is  decided  that  Baby  is  to  come  to  us  in  September. 

24///.  —  Lizzie's  birthday  and  Johnny's.  He  is  fifteen, 
—  a  lovely,  good  boy,  whom  every  one  loves.  Got  the 
Dean  a  new  suit  of  clothes,  as  he  must  be  nice  for  his 
duties  at  the  School.  Plato's  toga  was  not  so  costly, 
but  even  he  did  not  look  better  than  my  handsome  old 

July  and  August.  —  To  York  with  boys.  Rest  and 
enjoy  the  fine  air.  Home  in  August,  and  let  Anna  go 
down.  Four  hundred  callers  since  the  School  began. 
Philosophy  is  a  bore  to  outsiders. 

Last  Years.  337 

Got  things  ready  for  my  baby,  —  warm  wrapper,  and 
all  the  dear  can  need  on  her  long  journey.  On  the  2ist 
saw  Mrs.  Giles  (who  went  for  baby)  off;  the  last  time  I 
went,  it  was  to  see  May  go.  She  was  sober  and  sad, 
not  gay  as  before ;  seemed  to  feel  it  might  be  a  longer 
voyage  than  we  knew.  The  last  view  I  had  of  her, 
was  standing  alone  in  the  long  blue  cloak  waving  her 
hand  to  us,  smiling  with  wet  eyes  till  out  of  sight.  How 
little  we  dreamed  what  an  experience  of  love,  joy,  pain, 
and  death  she  was  going  to  ! 

A  lonely  time  with  all  away.  My  grief  meets  me  when 
I  come  home,  and  the  house  is  full  of  ghosts. 

September.  —  Put  papers  in  order,  and  arrange  things 
generally,  to  be  in  order  when  our  Lulu  comes.  Make  a 
cosey  nursery  for  the  darling,  and  say  my  prayers  over 
the  little  white  crib  that  waits  for  her,  if  she  ever  comes. 
God  watch  over  her  ! 

Paid  my  first  poll- tax.  As  my  head  is  my  most  valu- 
able piece  of  property,  I  thought  $2  a  cheap  tax  on  it. 
Saw  my  townswomen  about  voting,  etc.  Hard  work  to 
stir  them  up ;  cake  and  servants  are  more  interesting. 

i8//z.  —  In  Boston,  waiting  for  the  steamer  that  brings 
my  treasure.  The  ocean  seems  very  wide  and  terrible 
when  I  think  of  the  motherless  little  creature  coming  so 
far  to  us. 

igth.  —  Lulu  and  Sophie  N.  arrived  with  poor  G., 
worn  out  by  anxiety.  A  stormy  passage,  and  much 
care,  being  turned  out  of  the  stateroom  I  had  engaged 
for  them  and  paid  for,  by  a  rude  New  York  dressmaker. 
No  help  for  it,  so  poor  G.  went  to  a  rat-hole  below,  and 
did  her  best. 

As  I  waited  on  the  wharf  while  the  people  came  off 
the  ship,  I  saw  several  babies,  and  wondered  each  time 
if  that  was  mine.  At  last  the  captain  appeared,  and  in 


33  8  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

his  arms  a  little  yellow- haired  thing  in  white,  with  its  hat 
half  off  as  it  looked  about  with  lively  blue  eyes  and  bab- 
bled prettily.  Mrs.  G.  came  along  by  it,  and  I  knew  it 
was  Lulu.  Behind,  walked  a  lovely  brown-eyed  girl  with 
an  anxious  face,  all  being  new  and  strange  to  Sophie. 

I  held  out  my  arms  to  Lulu,  only  being  able  to  say  her 
name.  She  looked  at  me  for  a  moment,  then  came  to 
me,  saying  "  Marmar"  in  a  wistful  way,  and  resting  close 
as  if  she  had  found  her  own  people  and  home  at  last,  — 
as  she  had,  thank  Heaven  !  I  could  only  listen  while  I 
held  her,  and  the  others  told  their  tale.  Then  we  got 
home  as  soon  as  we  could,  and  dear  baby  behaved  very 
well,  though  hungry  and  tired. 

The  little  princess  was  received  with  tears  and  smiles, 
and  being  washed  and  fed  went  quietly  to  sleep  in  her 
new  bed,  while  we  brooded  over  her  and  were  never  tired 
of  looking  at  the  little  face  of  "  May's  baby." 

She  is  a  very  active,  bright  child,  not  pretty  yet,  being 
browned  by  sea  air,  and  having  a  yellow  down  on  her 
head,  and  a  pug  nose.  Her  little  body  is  beautifully 
formed,  broad  shoulders,  fine  chest,  and  lovely  arms.  A 
happy  thing,  laughing  and  waving  her  hands,  confiding 
and  bold,  with  a  keen  look  in  the  eyes  so  like  May, 
who  hated  shams  and  saw  through  them  at  once.  She 
always  comes  to  me,  and  seems  to  have  decided  that  I 
am  really  "  Marmar."  My  heart  is  full  of  pride  and  joy, 
and  the  touch  of  the  dear  little  hands  seems  to  take 
away  the  bitterness  of  grief.  I  often  go  at  night  to  see 
if  she  is  really  here,  and  the  sight  of  the  little  head  is 
like  sunshine  to  me.  Father  adores  her,  and  she  loves 
to  sit  in  his  strong  arms.  They  make  a  pretty  picture 
as  he  walks  in  the  garden  with  her  to  "see  birdies." 
Anna  tends  her  as  she  did  May,  who  was  her  baby 
once,  being  ten  years  younger,  and  we  all  find  life 

Last  Years.  339 

easier  to  live  now  the  baby  has  come.  Sophie  is  a  sweet 
girl,  with  much  character  and  beauty.  A  charming  sis- 
ter in  love  as  in  law. 

October.  —  Happy  days  with  Lulu  and  Sophie ;  get- 
ting acquainted  with  them.  Lulu  is  rosy  and  fair  now, 
and  grows  pretty  in  her  native  air,  —  a  merry  little  lass, 
who  seems  to  feel  at  home  and  blooms  in  an  atmosphere 
of  adoration.  People  come  to  see  "Miss  Alcott's  baby," 
and  strangers  waylay  her  little  carriage  in  the  street 
to  look  at  her;  but  she  does  not  allow  herself  to  be 

As  Father  wants  to  go  West  I  decide  to  hire  Cousin 
L.  W.'s  house  furnished  for  the  winter,  so  that  Sophie 
and  the  boys  can  have  a  pleasant  time.  S.  misses  the 
gayety  of  her  home-life  in  stupid  Concord,  where  the 
gossip  and  want  of  manners  strike  her  very  disagreeably. 
Impertinent  questions  are  asked  her,  and  she  is  amazed 
at  the  queer,  rude  things  people  say. 

November  8/7*.  —  Lulu's  birthday.  One  year  old. 
Her  gifts  were  set  out  on  a  table  for  her  to  see  when 
she  came  down  in  the  afternoon,  —  a  little  cake  with  one 
candle,  a  rose  crown  for  the  queen,  a  silver  mug,  dolly, 
picture-books,  gay  ball,  toys,  flowers,  and  many  kisses. 
She  sat  smiling  at  her  treasures  just  under  her  mother's 
picture.  Suddenly,  attracted  by  the  sunshine  on  the  face 
of  the  portrait  which  she  knows  is  "Marmar,"  she  held 
up  a  white  rose  to  it  calling  "  Mum  !  Mum  !  "  and  smiling 
at  it  in  a  way  that  made  us  all  cry.  A  happy  day  for  her, 
a  sad  one  to  us. 

Thanksgiving.  —  Family  dinner. 

Father   at    Syracuse,  having   conversations   at    Bishop 
Huntington's  and  a  fine  time  everywhere. 

December.  —  Too    busy  to    keep   much  of  a  journal. 
My  life  is  absorbed  in  my  baby.     On  the  twenty-third 

34°  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

she  got  up  and  walked  alone ;  had  never  crept  at  all, 
but  when  ready  ran  across  the  room  and  plumped  down, 
laughing  triumphantly  at  her  feat. 

Christmas.  —  Tried  to  make  it  gay  for  the  young 
folks,  but  a  heavy  day  for  Nan  and  me.  Sixty  gifts 
were  set  out  on  different  tables,  and  all  were  much 
pleased.  Sophie  had  many  pretty  things,  and  gave  to 
all  generously. 

A  hard  year  for  all,  but  when  I  hold  my  Lulu  I  feel 
as  if  even  death  had  its  compensations.  A  new  world 
for  me. 

Called  down  one  day  to  see  a  young  man.  Found  it 
one  of  those  to  whom  I  spoke  at  the  prison  in  Concord 
last  June.  Came  to  thank  me  for  the  good  my  little 
story  did  him,  since  it  kept  him  straight  and  reminded 
him  that  it  is  never  too  late  to  mend.  Told  me  about 
himself,  and  how  he  was  going  to  begin  anew  and  wipe 
out  the  past.  He  had  been  a  miner,  and  coming  East 
met  some  fellows  who  made  him  drink ;  while  tipsy  he 
stole  something  in  a  doctor's  office,  and  having  no  friends 
here  was  sentenced  to  three  years  in  prison.  Did  well,  and 
was  now  out.  Had  a  prospect  of  going  on  an  expedition 
to  South  America  with  a  geological  surveying  party.  An 
interesting  young  man.  Fond  of  books,  anxious  to  do 
well,  intelligent,  and  seemed  eager  to  atone  for  his  one 
fault.  Gave  him  a  letter  to  S.  G.  at  Chicago.  Wrote  to 
the  warden,  who  confirmed  D.'s  story  and  spoke  well  of 
him.  Miss  Willard  wrote  me  later  of  him,  and  he  seemed 
doing  well.  Asked  if  he  might  write  to  me,  and  did  so 
several  times,  then  went  to  S.  A.  and  I  hear  no  more. 
Glad  to  have  said  a  word  to  help  the  poor  boy. 

March,  1881. — Voted  for  school  committee. 

October.  —  Wrote  a  preface  for  Parker's  Prayers,  just 
got  out  by  F.  B.  Sanborn. 

Last  Years.  341 

November.  —  Forty-nine  on  29th.  Wrote  a  preface  to 
the  new  edition  of  "  Moods." 

8//z. —  Gave  my  baby  tu.>o  kisses  when  she  woke,  and 
escorted  her  down  to  find  a  new  chair  decked  with 
ribbons,  and  a  doll's  carriage  tied  with  pink ;  toys,  pic- 
tures, flowers,  and  a  cake,  with  a  red  and  a  blue  candle 
burning  gayly. 

Wrote  a  tale  for  the  Soldiers'  Home,  —  "My  Red 
Cap,"  —  and  one  for  the  Woman's  Hospital  fair,  —  "A 
Baby's  Birthday."  Also  a  tale  for  F. 

December.  —  A  poor  woman  in  Illinois  writes  me  to 
send  her  children  some  Christmas  gifts,  being  too  poor 
and  ill  to  get  any.  They  asked  her  to  write  to  Santa 
Claus  and  she  wrote  to  me.  Sent  a  box,  and  made  a 
story  about  it,  — $100.  Lulu  much  interested,  and  kept 
bringing  all  her  best  toys  and  clothes  "  for  poor  little 
boys."  A  generous  baby. 

To  Mr.  Nilcs. 

FEBRUARY  12,  iSSi. 

DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  Wendell  Phillips  wrote  me  a  letter 
begging  me  to  write  a  preface  for  Mrs.  Robinson's  "  His- 
tory of  the  Suffrage  Movement ; '  but  I  refused  him,  as  I 
did  Mrs.  R.,  because  I  don't  write  prefaces  well,  and  if  I 
begin  to  do  it  there  will  be  no  end.  .  .  . 

Cannot  you  do  a  small  edition  for  her?  All  the  be- 
lievers will  buy  the  book,  and  I  think  the  sketches  of 
L.  M.  Child,  Abby  May,  Alcott,  and  others  will  add  much 
to  the  interest  of  the  book. 

Has  she  seen  you  about  it?  Will  you  look  at  the 
manuscripts  by  and  by,  or  do  you  scorn  the  whole 
thing?  Better  not;  for  we  are  going  to  win  in  time, 
and  the  friend  of  literary  ladies  ought  to  be  also  the 
friend  of  women  generally. 

342  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

We  are  going  to  meet  the  Governor,  council,  and 
legislature  at  Mrs.  Tudor's  next  Wednesday  eve  and 
have  a  grand  set-to.  I  hope  he  will  come  out  of  the 
struggle  alive. 

Do  give  Mrs.  R.  a  lift  if  you  can,  and  your  petitioners 
will  ever  pray. 

Yours  truly,  L.  M.  A. 

FEBRUARY  19,  iSSi. 

DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  Thank  you  very  much  for  so 
kindly  offering  to  look  at  Mrs.  R.'s  book.  It  is  always 
pleasant  to  find  a  person  who  can  conquer  his  prejudices 
to  oblige  a  friend,  if  no  more. 

I  think  we  shall  be  glad  by  and  by  of  every  little  help 
we  may  have  been  able  to  give  to  this  reform  in  its  hard 
times,  for  those  who  take  the  tug  now  will  deserve  the 
praise  when  the  work  is  done. 

I  can  remember  when  Antislavery  was  in  just  the 
same  state  that  Suffrage  is  now,  and  take  more  pride  in 
the  very  small  help  we  Alcotts  could  give  than  in  all  the 
books  I  ever  wrote  or  ever  shall  write. 

"  Earth's  fanatics  often  make  heaven's  saints,"  you 
know,  and  it  is  as  well  to  try  for  that  sort  of  promotion 
in  time. 

If  Mrs.  R.  does  send  her  manuscripts  I  will  help  all  I 
can  in  reading  or  in  any  other  way.  If  it  only  records 
the  just  and  wise  changes  Suffrage  has  made  in  the  laws 
for  women,  it  will  be  worth  printing;  and  it  is  time 
to  keep  account  of  these  first  steps,  since  they  count 

I,  for  one,  don't  want  to  be  ranked  among  idiots, 
felons,  and  minors  any  longer,  for  I  am  none  of  the 
three,  but  very  gratefully  yours, 

L.  M.  A. 

Last  Years.  343 

To  Mrs.  Stearns. 

FEBRUARY  21,  iSSi. 

DEAR  MRS.  STEARNS,  —  Many  thanks  for  the  tender 
thoughtfulness  which  sends  us  the  precious  little  notes 
from  the  dear  dead  hands. 

They  are  so  characteristic  that  they  bring  both  Mother 
and  May  clearly  up  before  me,  alive  and  full  of  patient 
courage  and  happy  hopes.  I  am  resigned  to  my  blessed 
mother's  departure,  since  life  was  a  burden,  and  the 
heroic  past  made  a  helpless  future  very  hard  to  think  of. 
But  May's  loss,  just  when  life  was  fullest  and  sweetest, 
seems  very  bitter  to  me  still,  in  spite  of  the  sweet  baby 
who  is  an  unspeakable  comfort.  I  wish  you  could  see 
the  pretty  creature  who  already  shows  many  of  her  moth- 
er's traits  and  tastes.  Her  love  of  pictures  is  a  passion, 
but  she  will  not  look  at  the  common  gay  ones  most 
babies  enjoy.  She  chooses  the  delicate,  well-drawn,  and 
painted  figures  of  Caldecott  and  Miss  Greenaway ;  over 
these  she  broods  with  rapture,  pointing  her  little  fingers 
at  the  cows  or  cats,  and  kissing  the  children  with  funny 
prattlings  to  these  dumb  playmates.  She  is  a  fine,  tall 
girl,  full  of  energy,  intelligence,  and  health ;  blonde 
and  blue-eyed  like  her  mother,  but  with  her  father's  fea- 
tures, for  which  I  am  glad,  for  he  is  a  handsome  man. 
Louisa  May  bids  fair  to  be  a  noble  woman  ;  and  I  hope  I 
may  live  to  see  May's  child  as  brave  and  bright  and 
talented  as  she  was  and,  much  happier  in  her  fate. 

Father  is  at  the  West,  busy  and  well.  Anna  joins  me 
in  thanks  and  affectionate  regards. 

Ever  yours,  L.  M.  ALCOTT. 


March,   1882.  —  Helped  start  a  temperance  society; 
much   needed   in   C.      A   great   deal  of  drinking,   not 

344  Louisa  May  A  Loll. 

among  the  Irish,  but  young  American  gentlemen,  as 
well  as  farmers  and  mill  hands.  Women  anxious  to  do 
something,  but  find  no  interest  beyond  a  few.  Have 
meetings,  and  try  to  learn  how  to  work.  I  was  secretary, 
and  wrote  records,  letters,  and  sent  pledges,  etc. ;  also 
articles  in  "Concord  Freeman"  and  "Woman's  Journal" 
about  the  union  and  town  meetings. 

April.  —  Read  over  and  destroyed  Mother's  diaries, 
as  she  wished  me  to  do  so.  A  wonderfully  interesting 
record  of  her  life,  from  her  delicate,  cherished  girlhood 
through  her  long,  hard,  romantic  married  years,  old  age, 
and  death.  Some  time  I  will  write  a  story  or  a  memoir 
of  it. 

Lulu's  teeth  trouble  her ;  but  in  my  arms  she  seems  to 
find  comfort,  for  I  tell  stories  by  the  dozen ;  and  lambs, 
piggies,  and  "  tats  "  soothe  her  little  woes.  Wish  I  were 
stronger,  so  that.  I  might  take  all  the  care  of  her.  We 
seem  to  understand  each  other,  but  my  nerves  make 
me  impatient,  and  noise  wears  upon  me. 

Mr.  Emerson  ill.  Father  goes  to  see  him.  E.  held 
his  hand,  looking  up  at  the  tall,  sorry  old  man,  and  say- 
ing, with  that  smile  of  love  that  has  been  Father's  sun- 
shine for  so  many  years,  "  You  are  very  well,  —  keep  so, 
keep  so."  After  Father  left,  he  called  him  back  and 
grasped  his  hand  again,  as  if  he  knew  it  was  for  the  last 
time,  and  the  kind  eyes  said,  "  Good -by,  my  friend  ! ' 

April  27,  1882,  Louisa  speaks  most  tenderly  of 
the  death  of  Mr.  Emerson.  He  had  been  to  her 
and  to  her  family  the  truest  and  best  of  friends ; 
and  her  own  profound  reverence  for  him  had  been 
a  strong  influence,  from  the  time  when  she  played 
games  with  his  children  in  the  barn  until  she  fol- 
lowed him  to  his  honored  grave.  Let  critics  and 

Last  Years.  345 

philosophers  judge  him  by  his  intellect;  in  the 
hearts  of  this  family,  and  in  many  an  humble  home 
besides,  he  will  always  be  remembered  as  the  ten- 
derest,  most  sympathetic,  most  loyal  of  all  friends, 
whose  bounty  fell  on  them  silently  as  the  dew  from 
heaven,  and  whose  presence  could  brighten  the 
highest  joy  and  soothe  the  keenest  sorrow  they 
could  ever  know. 


Thursday,  27 th.  —  Mr.  Emerson  died  at  9  P.M.  sud- 
denly. Our  best  and  greatest  American  gone.  The 
nearest  and  dearest  friend  Father  has  ever  had,  and  the 
man  who  has  helped  me  most  by  his  life,  his  books,  his 
society.  I  can  never  tell  all  he  has  been  to  me,  —  from 
the  time  I  sang  Mignon's  song  under  his  window  (a 
little  girl)  and  wrote  letters  a  la  Bettine  to  him,  my 
Goethe,  at  fifteen,  up  through  my  hard  years,  when  his 
essays  on  Self-Reliance,  Character,  Compensation,  Love, 
and  Friendship  helped  me  to  understand  myself  and  life, 
and  God  and  Nature.  Illustrious  and  beloved  friend, 
goocl-by  ! 

Sunday,  3O//z.  —  Emerson's  funeral.  I  made  a  yellow 
lyre  of  jonquils  for  the  church,  and  helped  trim  it  up. 
Private  services  at  the  house,  and  a  great  crowd  at  the 
church.  Father  read  his  sonnet,  and  Judge  Hoar  and 
others  spoke.  Now  he  lies  in  Sleepy  Hollow  among 
his  brothers,  under  the  pines  he  loved. 

I  sat  up  till  midnight  to  write  an  article  on  R.  W.  E. 
for  the  "Youth's  Companion,"  that  the  children  may 
know  something  of  him.  A  labor  of  love. 

May.  —  Twenty-seven  boys  signed  pledge.  Temper- 
ance work.  Meetings.  I  give  books  to  schools.  Wrote 
an  article  for  Mrs.  Croly  on  R.  W.  E. 

346  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

June.  —  I  visited  A.  B.  in  Mattapoisset  for  a  week.  A 
queer  time,  driving  about  or  talking  over  our  year  in 
Europe.  School  children  called  upon  me  with  flowers, 

24//z.  —  John's  seventeenth  birthday.  A  dear  boy, 
good  and  gay,  full  of  love,  manliness,  and  all  honest  and 
lovely  traits,  like  his  father  and  mother.  Long  life  to 
my  boy  ! 

July.  —  School  of  Philosophy  opens  on  the  iyth  in 
full  force.  I  arrange  flowers,  oak  branches,  etc.,  and 
then  fly  before  the  reporters  come.  Father  very  happy. 
Westerners  arrive,  and  the  town  is  full  with  ideal  specu- 
lators. Penny  has  a  new  barge ;  we  call  it  the  "  Blue 
Plato"  (not  the  "Black  Maria"),  and  watch  it  nimble 
by  with  Margaret  Fullers  in  white  muslin  and  Hegels  in 
straw  hats,  while  stout  Penny  grins  at  the  joke  as  he  puts 
money  in  his  purse.  The  first  year  Concord  people  stood 
aloof,  and  the  strangers  found  it  hard  to  get  rooms.  Now 
every  one  is  eager  to  take  them,  and  the  School  is  pro- 
nounced a  success  because  it  brings  money  to  the  town. 
Even  philosphers  can't  do  without  food,  beds,  and  wash- 
ing ;  so  all  rejoice,  and  the  new  craze  flourishes.  If  all 
our  guests  paid  we  should  be  well  off;  several  hundred 
a  month  is  rather  wearing.  Father  asked  why  we  never 
went,  and  Anna  showed  him  a  long  list  of  four  hundred 
names  of  callers,  and  he  said  no  more. 

October. — To  Hotel  Bellevue  with  John. 

Missed  my  dear  baby,  but  need  quiet.  Brain  began 
to  work,  and  plans  for  tales  to  simmer.  Began  "Jo's 
Boys,"  as  Mrs.  Dodge  wants  a  serial. 

In  the  autumn  of  1882  Mr.  Alcott  was  attacked 
by  a  severe  stroke  of  paralysis,  from  which  he 
never  fully  recovered ;  and  for  the  rest  of  his  life 

Last  Years.  347 

his  daughters  shared  in  the  duty  of  tending  and 
caring  for  him  in  his  enfeebled  state.  It  had  been 
the  great  reward  of  Louisa's  years  of  hard  work 
that  she  could  surround  her  mother  with  every 
comfort  that  could  make  her  happy  in  her  last 
declining  years.  Not  less  had  she  delighted  to 
gratify  every  wish  of  her  father.  His  library  was 
fitted  up  with  exquisite  taste,  his  books  and  manu- 
scripts bound,  and  he  was  "  throned  in  philosophic 
ease '  for  the  rest  of  his  days.  What  a  relief  it 
was  now  that  she  could  have  the  faithful  nurse 
ready  at  his  call;  that  she  could  give  him  the 
pleasant  drives  which  he  enjoyed  so  much ;  and 
lighten  her  sister's  labors  with  every  assistance 
that  money  could  procure ! 

The  Orchard  House,  which  had  been  the  family 
home  for  twenty-five  years,  was  sold  to  Mr.  Harris, 
and  Mrs.  Pratt's  house  was  the  home  of  all.  Louisa 
spent  part  of  the  summer  at  the  seashore,  and 
finally  bought  a  small  house  at  Nonquit,  where 
the  children  could  all  spend  the  summer,  while 
she  and  her  sister  alternated  in  the  care  of  her 

In  the  autumn  of  1885,  Miss  Alcott  decided  to 
take  a  furnished  house  in  Louisburg  Square.  Her 
nephews  were  established  in  Boston,  and  their 
mother  wished  to  be  with  them.  Mr.  Alcott  bore 
the  moving  well,  and  they  found  many  comforts 
in  the  arrangement.  Louisa's  health  was  very 
feeble.  She  had  great  trouble  in  the  throat,  and 
her  old  dyspeptic  symptoms  returned  to  annoy 
her.  Still  she  cannot  give  up  work,  and  busies 
herself  in  preparing  "Lulu's  Library'  for  publi- 

Louisa  May  Alcott. 

cation,  and  hopes  to  be  able  to  work  on  "Jo's 

"Lulu's  Library'  was  a  collection  of  stories 
which  had  been  the  delight  of  the  child.  The  first 
series  was  published  in  1885,  the  second  in  1887, 
and  the  third  in  1889.  They  are  full  of  Louisa's 
charming  qualities,  and  have  a  special  interest  from 
the  tender  feeling  with  which  she  gathered  them 
up  for  her  niece.  The  touching  preface  to  "  Jo's 
Boys '  tells  of  the  seven  years  of  occasional  work 
on  this  book,  and  reveals  the  depth  of  feeling 
which  would  not  allow  her  to  write  as  formerly  of 
Marmee  and  Amy,  who  were  no  longer  here  to 
accept  their  own  likenesses.  During  the  latter 
part  of  her  work  on  this  book,  she  could  only 
write  from  half  an  hour  to  one  or  two  hours  a 
day.  This  was  published  in  September,  1886.  It 
contains  an  engraving  of  her  from  a  bas-relief  by 
Mr.  Ricketson. 

This  book  was  written  under  hard  circumstances, 
and  cost  its  author  more  effort  perhaps  than  any 
other.  It  is  evidently  not  the  overflow  of  her  de- 
light and  fun  in  life  like  "  Little  Women,"  but  it  is 
full  of  biographical  interest.  Her  account  of  her 
own  career,  and  of  the  annoyances  to  which  her 
celebrity  exposed  her,  is  full  of  her  old  spirit  and 
humor.  She  has  expressed  many  valuable  thoughts 
on  education,  and  her  spirit  is  as  hopeful  for  her 
boys  as  in  her  days  of  youth  and  health.  She  has 
too  many  characters  to  manage ;  but  we  feel  a  keen 
interest  in  the  fortunes  of  Dan  and  Emil,  and  in  the 
courtship  by  the  warm-hearted  Tom  of  his  medical 

Last  Years.  349 

Preface  to  "  Jo's  Boys" 

Having  been  written  at  long  intervals  during  the  past 
seven  years,  this  story  is  more  faulty  than  any  of  its  very 
imperfect  predecessors ;  but  the  desire  to  atone  for  an 
unavoidable  disappointment,  and  to  please  my  patient 
little  friends,  has  urged  me  to  let  it  go  without  further 

To  account  for  the  seeming  neglect  of  Amy,  let  me 
add,  that,  since  the  original  of  that  character  died,  it  has 
been  impossible  for  me  to  write  of  her  as  when  she  was 
here  to  suggest,  criticise,  and  laugh  over  her  namesake. 
The  same  excuse  applies  to  Marmee.  But  the  folded 
leaves  are  not  blank  to  those  who  knew  and  loved  them 
and  can  find  memorials  of  them  in  whatever  is  cheerful, 
true,  or  helpful  in  these  pages. 

L.  M.  ALCOTT. 

CONCORD,  July  4,  1886. 

To  Mr.  Horace  Chandler. 

DEAR  MR.  CHANDLER,  —  The  corrections  are  certainly 
rather  peculiar,  and  I  fear  my  struggles  to  set  them  right 
have  only  produced  greater  confusion. 

Fortunately  punctuation  is  a  free  institution,  and  all 
can  pepper  to  suit  the  taste.  I  don't  care  much,  and 
always  leave  proof-readers  to  quibble  if  they  like. 

Thanks  for  the  tickets.  I  fear  I  cannot  come  till 
Thursday,  but  will  try,  and  won't  forget  the  office,  since 
I  am  not  that  much-tried  soul  the  editor. 

Yours  truly, 

L.  M.  A. 

35°  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

To  Mrs.  Williams  (Betsey  Prig}. 

NONQUIT,  August  25. 

DEAR  BETSEY,  —  I  am  so  sorry  the  darling  Doll  is  ill ! 
Brood  over  him,  and  will  him  well;  for  mother-love 
works  wonders. 

My  poppet  is  a  picture  of  health,  vigor,  and  delightful 
naughtiness.  She  runs  wild  in  this  fine  place  with  some 
twenty  other  children  to  play  with,  —  nice  babies,  well- 
bred,  and  with  pleasant  mammas  for  me  to  gossip  with. 

It  would  be  a  good  place  for  your  little  people,  as  the 
air  is  delicious,  bathing  safe  and  warm,  and  cottages  to  be 
quiet  in  if  one  cares  to  keep  house.  Do  try  it  next  year. 
Let  me  know  early.  I  can  get  a  nice  little  cot  for  you 
(near  mine)  for  $100,  or  perhaps  less,  from  June  to  Oc- 
tober, —  if  you  care  to  stay ;  I  do.  .  .  . 

We  have  been  here  since  July,  and  are  all  hearty, 
brown,  and  gay  as  larks. 

"John  Inglesant  "  was  too  political  for  me.  I  am  too 
lazy  here  to  read  much ;  mean  to  find  a  den  in  Boston 
and  work  for  a  month  or  two ;  then  fly  off  to  New  York, 
and  perhaps  run  over  and  see  my  Betsey.  I  shall  be  at 
home  in  October,  and  perhaps  we  may  see  you  then,  if 
the  precious  little  shadow  gets  nice  and  well  again,  and  I 
pray  he  may. 

Lulu  has  some  trifling  ail  now  and  then,  —  just  enough 
to  show  me  how  dear  she  is  to  us  all,  and  what  a  great 
void  the  loss  of  our  little  girl  would  make  in  hearts  and 
home.  She  is  very  intelligent  and  droll.  When  I  told 
her  the  other  day  that  the  crickets  were  hopping  and 
singing  in  the  grass  with  their  mammas,  she  said  at  once, 
"  No  ;  their  Aunt  Weedys."  Aunty  is  nearer  than  mother 
to  the  poor  baby ;  and  it  is  very  sweet  to  have  it  so,  sines 
it  must  be. 

Last  Years.  351 

Now,  my  blessed  Betsey,  keep  a  brave  heart,  and  I  am 
sure  all  will  be  well  in  the  nest.  Love  and  kisses  to  the 
little  birds,  and  all  good  wishes  to  the  turtle-dove  and  her 


Yours  ever,  L.  M.  A. 

The  older  birthdays  are  2Qth  of  November,  Lulu's 
the  8th ;  so  we  celebrate  for  Grandpa,  Auntie,  and  Lulu 
all  at  once,  in  great  style,  —  eighty-three,  fifty,  and  three 
years  old. 

When  I  get  on  my  pins  I  'm  going  (D.  V.)  to  devote 
myself  to  settling  poor  souls  who  need  a  gentle  boost  in 
hard  times. 

To  Mr.  Niles. 

JUNE  23, 1883. 

DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  Thanks  for  the  Goethe  book.  I 
want  everything  that  comes  out  about  him.  "  Princess 
Amelia  "  is  charming,  and  the  surprise  at  the  end  well 
done.  Did  the  author  of  "  My  Wife's  Sister  "  write  it? 

I  told  L.  C.  M.  she  might  put  "A  Modern  Mephis- 
topheles  "  in  my  list  of  books.  Several  people  had  found 
it  out,  and  there  was  no  use  hi  trying  to  keep  it  secret 
after  that. 

Mrs.  Dodge  begged  me  to  consider  myself  mortgaged 
to  her  for  tales,  etc.,  and  as  I  see  no  prospect  of  any 
time  for  writing  books,  I  may  be  able  to  send  her  some 
short  stories  from  time  to  time,  and  so  be  getting  mate- 
rial for  a  new  set  of  books  like  "  Scrap-bag,"  but  with 
a  new  name.  You  excel  in  names,  and  can  be  evolving 

one  meantime.  .  .  . 

Yours  truly,  L.  M.  A. 

JULY  15,  1884. 

I  wish  I  might  be  inspired  to  do  those  dreadful  boys 
[" Jo's  Boys"]  ;  but  rest  is  more  needed  than  money. 

352  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Perhaps  during  August,  my  month  at  home,  I  may  take 
a  grind  at  the  old  mill. 



October  24,  1882.  —  Telegram  that  Father  had  had  a, 
paralytic  stroke.     Home  at  once,  and  found  him  stricken 
down.     Anxious  days  ;  little  hope. 

November.  —  Gave  up  our  rooms,  and  I  went  home  to 
help  with  the  new  care.  My  Lulu  ran  to  meet  me,  rosy 
and  gay,  and  I  felt  as  if  I  could  bear  anything  with  this 
little  sunbeam  to  light  up  the  world  for  me. 

Poor  Father  dumb  and  helpless ;  feeble  mind  slowly 
coming  back.  He  knows  us ;  but  he  's  asleep  most  of 
the  time.  Get  a  nurse,  and  wait  to  see  if  he  will  rally. 
It  is  sad  to  see  the  change  one  moment  makes,  turning 
the  hale,  handsome  old  man  into  this  pathetic  wreck. 
The  forty  sonnets  last  winter  and  the  fifty  lectures  at  the 
School  last  summer  were  too  much  for  a  man  of  eighty- 
three.  He  was  warned  by  Dr.  W.,  but  thought  it  folly 
to  stop  ;  and  now  poor  Father  pays  the  penalty  of  break- 
ing the  laws  of  health.  I  have  done  the  same  :  may  I 
be  spared  this  end  ! 

January,  1883. — Too  busy  to  keep  a  diary.  Can 
only  jot  down  a  fact  now  and  then. 

Father  improving.  Much  trouble  with  nurses ;  have 
no  idea  of  health  ;  won't  walk ;  sit  over  the  fire,  and  drink 
tea  three  times  a  day ;  ought  to  be  an  intelligent,  hearty 
set  of  women.  Could  do  better  myself;  have  to  fill  up 
all  the  deficiencies  and  do  double  duty. 

People  come  to  see  Father ;  but  it  excites  him,  and  we 
have  to  deny  him. 

February.  —  To  B.  for  a  week  of  rest,  having  got  Mrs. 
H.  settled  with  Father,  and  all  comfortable  for  November. 

Began  a  book  called  "  Genius."     Shall  never  finish  it, 

Last  Years.  353 

I  dare  say,  but  must  keep  a  vent  for  my  fancies  to  escape 
at.  This  double  life  is  trying,  and  my  head  will  work  as 
well  as  my  hands. 

March.  —  To  give  A.  rest  I  took  Lulu  and  maid  to 
the  Bellevue  for  a  month.  Lulu  very  happy  with  her  new 
world.  Enjoys  her  walks,  the  canary  I  got  her,  and  the 
petting  she  gets  from  all.  Showed  her  to  friends  ;  want 
them  to  know  May's  child.  Had  her  picture  taken  by 
Notman ;  very  good. 

April  2d.  —  Town  meeting.  Seven  women  vote.  I  am 
one  of  them,  and  A.  another.  A  poor  show  for  a  town 
that  prides  itself  on  its  culture  and  independence. 

6th.  —  Go  home  to  stay;  Father  needs  me.  New 
nurse ;  many  callers ;  Lulu  fretful,  Anna  tired,  Father 
feeble,  —  hard  times  for  all. 

Wrote  a  story  for  "  St.  Nicholas  '  at  odd  moments. 
Nurses  and  doctors  take  a  deal  of  money. 

May.  —  Take  care  of  Lulu,  as  we  can  find  no  good 
woman  to  walk  and  dress  and  play  with  her.  The  ladies 
are  incapable  or  proud  ;  the  girls  vulgar  or  rough  ;  so  my 
poor  baby  has  a  bad  time  with  her  little  temper  and 
active  mind  and  body.  Could  do  it  myself  if  I  had  the 
nerves  and  strength,  but  am  needed  elsewhere,  and  must 
leave  the  child  to  some  one.  Long  to  go  away  with  her 
and  do  as  I  like.  Shall  never  lead  my  own  life. 

July.  —  Go  to  Nonquit  with  Miss  H.  and  Lulu  for  the 
summer.  A  quiet,  healthy  place,  with  pleasant  people 
and  fine  air.  Turn  Lulu  loose,  with  H.  to  run  after  her, 
and  try  to  rest. 

Lulu  takes  her  first  bath  in  the  sea.  Very  bold ; 
walks  off  toward  Europe  up  to  her  neck,  and  is  much 
afflicted  that  I  won't  let  her  go  to  the  bottom  and  see 
the  "  little  trabs ;  "  makes  a  cupid  of  herself,  and  is  very 
pretty  and  gay. 


354  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

The  boys  revel  in  the  simple  pleasures  of  Nonquit,  — 
a  fine  place  for  them  to  be  in. 

Wrote  a  tale  for  "  St.  Nicholas,"  —  "  Sophie's  Secret," 
—  $100. 

August.  —  Home  to  C.,  and  let  A.  come  for  her  holi- 

o  * 

day.     Much  company. 

P.  C.  Mozoomdar  preached,  and  had  a  conversation  at 
Mrs.  Emerson's ;  a  most  interesting  man.  Curious  to 
hear  a  Hindu  tell  how  the  life  of  Christ  impressed  him. 

November  27^/2.  —  Decide  to  lessen  care  and  worry  at 
home ;  so  take  rooms  in  Boylston  Street,  and  with  Lulu 
set  forth  to  make  a  home  of  our  own.  The  whole  parlor 
floor  gives  my  lady  room  to  run  in  doors,  and  the  Public 
Garden  opposite  is  the  out-door  play-ground.  Miss  C. 
comes  as  governess,  and  we  settle  down.  Fred  boards 
with  us.  Heard  Mathew  Arnold. 

29/7*.  —  Birthday,  —  fifty-one.  Home  with  gifts  to 
poor  Father,  —  eighty- four.  Found  a  table  full  for 

December  2$th. —  Home  with  gifts  for  all;  sad  day. 
See  H.  Martineau's  statue ;  very  fine. 

January,  1884.  —  New  Year's  Day  is  made  mem- 
orable by  my  solemnly  spanking  my  child.  Miss  C.  and 
others  assure  me  it  is  the  only  way  to  cure  her  wilful- 
ness.  I  doubt  it ;  but  knowing  that  mothers  are  usually 
too  tender  and  blind,  I  correct  my  dear  in  the  old- 
fashioned  way.  She  proudly  says,  "  Do  it,  do  it !  "  and 
when  it  is  done  is  heartbroken  at  the  idea  of  Aunt  Wee- 
wee's  giving  her  pain.  Her  bewilderment  was  pathetic, 
and  the  effect,  as  I  expected,  a  failure.  Love  is  better ; 
but  also  endless  patience. 

February  2d.  —  Wendell  Phillips  died.  I  shall  mourn 
for  him  next  to  R.  W.  E.  and  Parker. 

6th.  —  Funeral  at  Hollis  Street  Church.     Sat  between 

Last  Years.  355 

Fred  Douglas  and  his  wife.     A  goodly  gathering  of  all  left 

of  the  old  workers.     Glad  and  proud  to  be  among  them. 


June.  —  Sell  the  Orchard  House  to  W.  T.  Harris. 
Glad  to  be  done  with  it,  though  after  living  in  it  twenty- 
five  years,  it  is  full  of  memories ;  but  places  have  not 
much  hold  on  me  when  the  dear  persons  who  made  them 
dear  are  gone.  .  .  . 

Bought  a  cottage  at  Nonquit,  with  house  and  furniture. 
All  like  it,  and  it  is  a  good  investment  I  am  told. 

2^th.  —  To  Nonquit  with  Lulu  and  K,  and  John. 
Fixed  my  house,  and  enjoyed  the  rest  and  quiet  im- 
mensely. Lulu  wild  with  joy  at  the  freedom.  .  .  . 

July  and  August.  —  Restful  days  in  my  little  house, 
which  is  cool  and  quiet,  and  without  the  curse  of  a 
kitchen  to  spoil  it. 

Lulu  happy  and  well,  and  every  one  full  of  summer  fun. 

On  the  yth  of  August  I  went  home,  and  let  A.  go  for 
her  holiday. 

Took  care  of  Father  and  house,  and  idled  away  the  hot 
days  with  books  and  letters.  Drove  with  Father,  as  he 
enjoyed  it  very  much.  .  .  . 

October.  —  To  Boston  with  John,  and  take  rooms  at 
the  Bellevue.  Very  tired  of  home-worry,  and  fly  for  rest 
to  my  old  refuge,  with  J.  and  L.  to  look  after  and  make 
a  home  for. 

Saw  Irving.  Always  enjoy  him,  though  he  is  very  queer. 
Ellen  Terry  always  the  same,  though  charming  in  her  way. 

November.  —  Find  Bellevue  uncomfortable  and  expen- 
sive, so  take  rooms  in  Chestnut  Street  for  self  and  boys. 

$>th.  —  My  Lulu's  birthday.  Go  home  with  flowers, 
gifts,  and  a  grateful  heart  that  the  dear  little  girl  is  so 
well  and  happy  and  good.  A  merry  day  with  the  little 
queen  of  the  house. 

356  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

2gfh.  —  Our  birthday,  —  Father  eighty- five ;  L.  M.  A. 
fifty-two.  Quiet  day ;  always  sad  for  thinking  of  Mother 
and  John  and  May,  who  all  left  us  at  this  season. 

December.-  -Began  again  on  "Jo's  Boys,"  as  T.  N. 
wants  a  new  book  very  much,  and  I  am  tired  of  being 
idle.  Wrote  two  hours  for  three  days,  then  had  a  violent 
attack  of  vertigo,  and  was  ill  for  a  week.  Head  won't 
bear  work  yet.  Put  away  papers,  and  tried  to  dawdle 
and  go  about  as  other  people  do. 

Pleasant  Christmas  with  Lulu  and  Nan  and  poor 
Father,  who  loves  to  see  us  about  him.  A  narrow 
world  now,  but  a  happy  one  for  him. 

Last  day  of  the  year.  All  well  at  home  except  my- 
self; body  feeble,  but  soul  improving. 

Jaunary  i,  1885.  —  Pleasant  greeting  from  brother 
Ernest  by  telegram,  —  never  forgets  us.  Opera  in  the 
evening,  —  Emma  Nevada.  Sent  box  home.  Very  cold. 

John  had  his  first  dress-suit.  Happy  boy  !  Several 
pleasant  Sunday  evenings  at  E.  P.  W.'s.  See  Mrs.  Bur- 
nett, and  like  her. 

Visit  Blind  Asylum  and  North  End  Mission.  Lulu 
passed  a  week  with  me  for  a  change. 

19^.  —  An  old-fashioned  party  in  an  old-time  house. 
All  in  antique  costume  ;  Lulu  very  pretty  in  hers.  Coun- 
try kitchen  and  country  fare ;  spinning  and  weaving ; 
old  songs  and  dances ;  tally-ho  coach  with  P.  as  an 
ancient  Weller,  —  very  funny. 

•  •••••••• 

June.  —  Read  Life  of  Saint  Elizabeth  by  D'Alembert, 

-  quaint  and  sweet ;  also  French  novels.    Write  out  the 

little  tales  I  tell  Lulu  for  a  new  Christmas  book,  having 

nothing   else.      Send   one,   "The   Candy  Country,"  to 

"St.  Nicholas." 

Last  Years.  357 

August  %th.  —  Go  home,  and  A.  goes  to  N.  Take 
care  of  Father,  arrange  the  little  tales,  and  look  at 
houses  in  B.  Have  a  plan  to  take  a  furnished  house 
for  the  winter,  and  all  be  together.  A.  is  lonely  in  C. ; 
boys  must  be  near  business.  I  want  Lulu,  and  Father 
will  enjoy  a  change. 

Sorted  old  letters,  and  burned  many.  Not  wise  to 
keep  for  curious  eyes  to  read  and  gossip-lovers  to  print 
by  and  by. 

Lived  in  the  past  for  days,  and  felt  very  old,  recalling 
all  I  have  been  through.  Experiences  go  deep  with  me, 
and  I  begin  to  think  it  might  be  well  to  keep  some 
record  of  my  life,  if  it  will  help  others  to  read  it  when 
I  'm  gone.  People  seem  to  think  our  lives  interesting 
and  peculiar. 

September.  —  After  a  lively  time  with  house-brokers,  I 
take  a  house  in  Louisburg  Square  for  two  years.  It  is  a 
large  house,  furnished,  and  well  suited  to  our  needs, — 
sunny,  trees  in  front,  good  air,  and  friends  near  by.  All 
are  pleased,  and  we  prepare  to  move  October  ist.  .  .  . 

Father  drove  down  very  nicely.  Pleased  with  his  new 
room ;  Lulu  charmed  with  her  big,  sunny  nursery  and 
the  play-house  left  for  her;  boys  in  clover;  and  Nan 
ready  for  the  new  sort  of  housekeeping. 

I  shall  miss  my  quiet,  care- free  life  in  B. ;  but  it  is 
best  for  all,  so  I  shall  try  to  bear  the  friction  and  the 
worry  many  persons  always  bring  me. 

It  will  be  an  expensive  winter ;  but  T.  N.  tells  me  the 
books  never  sold  better,  so  a  good  run  in  January  will 
make  all  safe. 

"Lulu's  Library"  as  a  "pot-boiler"  will  appease  the 
children,  and  I  may  be  able  to  work  on  "Jo's  Boys." 

March,  1886. --To  Mrs.  H.'s  to  hear  Mr.  Snyder 
read  the  "  Iliad  ; '  enjoyed  it. 


358  Louisa  May  Alcctt. 

Sixteen  little  girls  call,  and  the  autograph  fiend  is 

27/7?.  —  Another  attack  of  vertigo,  —  ill  for  a  week; 
sleepless  nights.  Head  worked  like  a  steam-engine ; 
would  not  stop.  Planned  "Jo's  Boys"  to  the  end,  and 
longed  to  get  up  and  write  it.  Told  Dr.  W.  that  he  had 
better  let  me  get  the  ideas  out,  then  I  could  rest.  He 
very  wisely  agreed,  and  said,  "  As  soon  as  you  can,  write 
half  an  hour  a  day,  and  see  if  it  does  you  good.  Rebel- 
lious brains  want  to  be  attended  to,  or  trouble  comes." 
So  I  began  as  soon  as  able,  and  was  satisfied  that  we 
were  right ;  for  my  head  felt  better  very  soon,  and  with 
much  care  about  not  overdoing,  I  had  some  pleasant 
hours  when  I  forgot  my  body  and  lived  in  my  mind. 

April.  —  Went  on  writing  one  or  two  hours  a  day,  and 
felt  no  ill  effects. 

May.  —  Began  to  think  of  Concord,  and  prepare  to  go 
back  for  the  summer.  Father  wants  his  books ;  Lulu, 
her  garden ;  Anna,  her  small  house ;  and  the  boys,  their 
friends.  I  want  to  go  away  and  rest. 

Anna  goes  up  the  last  of  the  month  and  gets  the 
house  ready.  We  send  Lulu  and  Father  later,  and  the 
boys  and  I  shut  up  No.  10.  .  .  . 

June.  —  Home  in  C.,  —  sunny,  clean,  and  pleasant. 
Put  Lulu  in  order,  and  get  ready  for  a  month  in  Prince- 
ton with  Mrs.  H.  Very  tired. 

A  quiet  three  weeks  on  the  hillside,  —  a  valley  pink 
with  laurel  in  front,  Mount  Wachusett  behind  us,  and 
green  hills  all  round.  A  few  pleasant  people.  I  read, 
sleep,  walk,  and  write,  —  get  fifteen  chapters  done.  In- 
stinct was  right ;  after  seven  years  of  rest,  the  old  brain 
was  ready  for  work  and  tired  of  feeding  on  itself,  since 
work  it  must  at  something.  Enjoyed  Hedge's  "  Hours 
with  German  Classics,"  and  "Baldwin,"  by  Vernon  Lee. 

Last  Years.  359 

Home  in  time  to  get  Anna  and  Lulu  off  to  N.  for 
the  summer.  A.  needs  the  rest  very  much,  and  Lulu 
the  freedom.  I  shall  revel  in  the  quiet,  and  finish  my 

July.  —  The  seashore  party  get  off,  and  peace  reigns. 
I  rest  a  day,  and  then  to  work.  Finish  "Jo's  Boys," 
and  take  it  to  T.  N.  Much  rejoicing  over  a  new  book. 
Fifty  thousand  to  be  the  first  edition ;  orders  coming  in 
fast.  Not  good,  —  too  great  intervals  between  the  parts, 
as  it  was  begun  long  ago  ;  but  the  children  will  be  happy, 
and  my  promise  kept.  Two  new  chapters  were  needed, 
so  I  wrote  them,  and  gladly  corked  my  inkstand. 

What  next?  Mrs.  Dodge  wants  a  serial,  and  T.  N.  a 
novel.  I  have  a  dozen  plots  in  my  head,  but  think  the 
serial  better  come  first.  Want  a  great  deal  of  money  for 
many  things ;  every  poor  soul  I  ever  knew  comes  for 
help,  and  expenses  increase.  I  am  the  only  money- 
maker, and  must  turn  the  mill  for  others,  though  my 
own  grist  is  ground  and  in  the  barn. 

The  School  begins.  Father  feeble,  but  goes,  —  for 
the  last  time,  I  think. 

A  series  of  letters  to  her  father's  friend,  Mrs. 
Stearns,  show  how  tenderly  and  carefully  Louisa 
watched  over  the  slow  decline  of  the  stricken 
man,  but  they  are  too  full  of  details  of  the  sick- 
room for  publication.  A  few  extracts  will  give 
her  feeling. 

MAY  23  [1885]. 

DEAR  MRS.  STEARNS,  —  Many  thanks  for  the  sweet 
nosegay  you  sent  me.  It  came  in  good  time,  for  to- 
day is  the  anniversary  of  Father's  wedding-day  and  my 
sister's  silver  wedding.  Rather  sad  for  both  mateless 

360  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

ones ;  but  we  have  done  our  best  to  cheer  them  up,  and 
the  soft  rain  is  very  emblematic  of  the  memories  their 
own  quiet  tears  keep  green. 

Father  remembered  you,  and  smelled  his  flowers  with 
pleasure.  He  is  very  tired  of  living,  and  wants  to  "  go 
up,"  as  he  expresses  it.  A  little  more  or  little  less  light 
would  make  him  happier;  but  the  still  active  mind  beats 
against  the  prison  bars,  and  rebels  against  the  weakness 
of  body  that  prevents  the  old  independent  life.  I  am 
afraid  the  end  is  not  to  be  peaceful  unless  it  is  sudden, 
as  I  hope  it  may  be  for  all  our  sakes ;  it  is  so  wearing  to 
see  this  slow  decline,  and  be  able  to  do  little  but  preach 
and  practise  patience. 

•  •••*•••• 

Affectionately  yours,  L.  M.  A. 


•  •••••*•• 

It  is  only  a  temporary  change,  perhaps ;  but  I  still 
hope  that  it  will  last,  and  his  mind  grow  still  clearer. 
These  painless,  peaceful  days  have  a  certain  sweetness, 
sad  as  it  is  to  see  the  dear,  hale  old  man  so  feeble.  If 
he  can  know  us,  and  enjoy  something  of  the  old  life, 
it  is  worth  having,  though  the  end  may  come  at  any 
moment.  .  .  . 

Now  and  then  a  word  comes  without  effort.     "  Up  ! ' 
was  the  first  one,  and  seems  very  characteristic  of  this 
beautiful,  aspiring  soul,  almost  on  the  wing  for  heaven. 

To  Mr.  Niles. 

NONQUIT,  July  13,  1885. 

DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  I  want  to  know  if  it  is  too  late  to 
do  it  and  if  it  is  worth  doing  ;  namely,  to  collect  some 
of  the  little  tales  I  tell  Lulu  and  put  them  with  the  two  I 

Last  Years.  361 

shall  have  printed  the  last  year  and  the  "  Mermaid  Tale  ' 
to  match  the  pictures  we  bought,  and  call  it  "  Lulu's 
Library"?  I  have  several  tiny  books  written  down  for 
L. ;  and  as  I  can  do  no  great  work,  it  occurred  to  me  that 
I  might  venture  to  copy  these  if  it  would  do  for  a  Christ- 
mas book  for  the  younger  set. 

I  ache  to  fall  on  some  of  the  ideas  that  are  simmering 
in  my  head,  but  dare  not,  as  my  one  attempt  since  the 
last  "Jo's  Boys"  break-down  cost  me  a  week  or  two  of 
woe  and  $30  for  the  doctor.  I  have  lovely  long  days  here, 
and  can  copy  these  and  see  'em  along  if  you  want  them. 
One  has  gone  to  "  Harper's  Young  People,"  and  one  is  for 
"  St.  Nicholas  "  when  it  is  done,  —  about  the  Kindergarten 
for  the  blind.  These  with  Lulu's  would  make  a  little 
book,  and  might  begin  a  series  for  small  folks.  Old 
ladies  come  to  this  twaddle  when  they  can  do  nothing 
else.  What  say  you?  .  .  . 

Yours  truly, 

L.  M.  A. 

SEPTEMBER  18,  1885. 

DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  I  send  you  some  funny  sketches  by 
Mrs.  L.  She  seems  to  be  getting  on.  How  would  it  do 
to  ask  her  to  illustrate  the  fairy  book?  She  has  a  pretty 
taste  in  elves,  and  her  little  girl  was  good.  I  hope  to 
touch  up  the  other  stories  this  winter,  and  she  can  illus- 
trate, and  next  Christmas  (or  whenever  it  is  ready)  we 
can  have  a  little  book  out.  This  sort  of  work  being  all  I 
dare  do  now,  I  may  as  well  be  clearing  the  decks  for 
action  when  the  order  comes  to  "  Up,  and  at  'em  ! ' 
again,  if  it  ever  does. 

I  'd  like  to  help  Mrs.  L.  if  I  could,  as  we  know  some- 
thing of  her,  and  I  fancy  she  needs  a  lift.  Perhaps  we 
could  use  these  pictures  in  some  way  if  she  liked  to  have 

Fac-simile  of  Miss  Alcotfs   Writing. 

JJ.      <N— v 


N.  V^  ~"\ 

Ar—^r-^          'sJ^^^        ^l^-^r^J 

X  <* 

Fac- simile  of  Miss  Alcotf  s   Writing.       363 





^  -^S5      -o 



364  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

us.      Maybe   I   could  work   them   into   a   story  of  our 
"  cullud  bredren." 

Thanks  for  the  books.     Dear  Miss is  rather  prim 

in  her  story,  but  it  is  pretty  and  quite  correct.     So  differ- 
ent from  Miss  Alcott's  slap-dash  style. 

The  "  H.  H."  book  ["  Ramona  "]  is  a  noble  record  of 
the  great  wrongs  of  her  chosen  people,  and  ought  to  wake 
up  the  sinners  to  repentance  and  justice  before  it  is  too 
late.  It  recalls  the  old  slavery  days,  only  these  victims 
are  red  instead  of  black.  It  will  be  a  disgrace  if  "  H.  H." 
gave  her  work  and  pity  all  in  vain. 

Yours  truly,  L.  M.  A. 


DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  Thanks  for  the  book  which  I  shall 
like  to  read. 

Please  tell  Miss  N.  that  she  will  find  in  Sanborn's 
article  in  "  St.  Nicholas  "  or  Mrs.  Moulton's  in  the  "  Emi- 
nent Women  "  book  all  that  I  wish  to  have  said  about 
myself.  You  can  add  such  facts  about  editions,  etc.,  as 
you  think  best.  I  don't  like  these  everlasting  notices ; 
one  is  enough,  else  we  poor  people  feel  like  squeezed 
oranges,  and  nothing  is  left  sacred. 

George  Eliot's  new  life  and  letters  is  well  done,  and  we 
are  not  sorry  we  have  read  them.  Mr.  Cross  has  been  a 
wise  man,  and  leaves  us  all  our  love  and  respect  instead 
of  spoiling  them  as  Froude  did  for  Carlyle, 

Yours  truly,  L.  M.  A. 

JANUARY  2,  1886. 

DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  Thanks  for  the  good  wishes  and 
news.  Now  that  I  cannot  work,  it  is  very  agreeable  to 
hear  that  the  books  go  so  well,  and  that  the  lazy  woman 
need  not  worry  about  things. 

Last  Years.  365 

I   appreciate  my  blessings,  I  assure  you.     I  heartily 
wish  I  could  "  swamp  the  book-room  with  '  Jo's  Boys,' 
as  Fred  says,  and  hope  to  do  it  by  and  by  when  head  and 
hand  can  safely  obey  the  desire  of  the  heart,  which  will 
never   be  too   tired   or   too  old  to   remember  and    be 


Your  friend,  L.  M.  ALCOTT. 

MONDAY,  A.  M.  [i8S6J.  1 

DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  My  doctor  forbids  me  to  begin  a 
long  book  or  anything  that  will  need  much  thought  this 
summer.  So  I  must  give  up  "Tragedy  of  To-day,"  as  it 
will  need  a  good  deal  of  thinking  to  be  what  it  ought. 

I  can  give  you  a  girls'  book  however,  and  I  think  that 
will  be  better  than  a  novel.  I  have  several  stories  done, 
and  can  easily  do  more  and  make  a  companion  vol- 
ume for  "  Spinning- Wheel  Stories  '  at  Christmas  if  you 
want  it. 

This,  with  the  Lulu  stories,  will  be  better  than  the  set 
of  novels  I  am  sure.  .  .  .  Wait  till  I  can  do  a  novel,  and 
then  get  out  the  set  in  style,  if  Alcott  is  not  forgotten  by 
that  time. 

I  was  going  to  send  Mrs.  Dodge  one  of  the  tales  for 
girls,  and  if  there  is  time  she  might  have  more.  But 
nearly  all  new  ones  would  make  a  book  go  well  in  the 
holiday  season.  You  can  have  those  already  done  now  if 
you  want  them.  "  Sophie's  Secret '  is  one,  "  An  Ivy 
Spray:  or  Cinderella's  Slippers  "  another,  and  "Moun- 
tain Laurel '  is  partly  done.  "  A  Garland  for  Girls  ' 
might  do  for  a  title  perhaps,  as  they  are  all  for  girls. 

Yours  truly,  L.  M.  A. 

In  the  spring  of  1886,  Dr.  Rhoda  Lawrence  took 
charge  of  Miss  Alcott' s  health,  and  gave  her  treat- 

366  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

ment  by  massage  and  other  appropriate  means,  from 
which  she  received  benefit.  The  summer  was  spent 
at  Concord  with  her  father,  and  was  varied  by  a 
pleasant  trip  to  the  mountains.  Miss  Alcott  fin- 
ished "Jo's  Boys,"  which  was  published  in  Sep- 
tember. She  occupied  herself  also  in  looking 
over  old  journals  and  letters,  and  destroyed  many 
things  which  she  did  not  wish  to  have  come  under 
the  public  eye.  She  had  enjoyed  her  life  at  Prince- 
ton, and  said  that  she  felt  better  than  for  fifteen 
years;  but  in  August  she  was  severely  attacked 
with  rheumatism  and  troubled  with  vertigo.  She 
suffered  very  much,  and  was  in  a  very  nervous 

Miss  Alcott  always  looked  bravely  and  calmly 
upon  all  the  possibilities  of  life,  and  she  now  made 
full  preparations  for  the  event  of  her  own  death. 
Her  youngest  nephew  had  always  been  especially 
beloved,  and  she  decided  to  take  out  papers  of 
adoption,  to  make  him  legally  her  son  and  heir. 
She  wished  him  to  assume  the  name  of  Alcott,  and 
to  be  her  representative. 

Louisa's  journal  closes  July,  1886,  with  the  old 
feeling,  —  that  she  must  grind  away  at  the  mill  and 
make  money  to  supply  the  many  claims  that  press 
upon  her  from  all  sides.  She  feels  the  burden 
of  every  suffering  human  life  upon  her  own  soul. 
She  knew  that  she  could  write  what  was  eagerly 
desired  by  others  and  would  bring  her  the  means 
of  helping  those  in  need,  and  her  heart  and  head 
united  in  urging  her  to  work.  Whether  it  would 
have  been  possible  for  her  to  have  rested  more 
fully,  and  whether  she  might  then  have  worked 

Last  Years.  367 

longer  and  better,  is  one  of  those  questions  which 
no  one  is  wise  enough  to  answer.  Yet  the  warning 
of  her  life  should  not  be  neglected,  and  the  eager 
brain  should  learn  to  obey  the  laws  of  life  and 
health-  while  it  is  yet  time. 

In  September,  1886,  Miss  Alcott  returned  to 
Louisburg  Square,  and  spent  the  winter  in  the  care 
of  her  father,  and  in  the  society  of  her  sister  and 
nephews  and  the  darling  child.  She  suffered  much 
from  hoarseness,  from  nervousness  and  debility,  and 
from  indigestion  and  sleeplessness,  but  still  exerted 
herself  for  the  comfort  of  all  around  her.  She  had 
a  happy  Christmas,  and  sympathized  with  the  joy 
of  her  oldest  nephew  in  his  betrothal.  In  Decem- 
ber she  was  so  weary  and  worn  that  she  went  out 
to  Dr.  Lawrence's  home  in  Roxbury  for  rest  and 
care.  She  found  such  relief  to  her  overtasked 
brain  and  nerves  from  the  seclusion  and  quiet  of 
Dunreath  Place,  that  she  found  her  home  and  rest 
there  for  the  remainder  of  her  life. 

It  was  a  great  trial  to  Louisa  to  be  apart  from 
her  family,  to  whom  she  had  devoted  her  life.  She 
clung  to  her  dying  father,  and  to  the  dear  sister  still 
left  to  her,  with  increasing  fondness,  and  she  longed 
for  her  boys  and  her  child ;  but  her  tired  nerves 
could  not  bear  even  the  companionship  of  her 
family,  and  sometimes  for  days  she  wanted  to  be 
all  alone.  "  I  feel  so  safe  out  here ! '  she  said 

Mr.  Alcott  spent  the  summer  at  Melrose,  and 
Louisa  went  there  to  visit  him  in  June.  In  June 
and  July,  1887,  she  went  to  Concord  and  looked 
over  papers  and  completed  the  plan  for  adopting 

368  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

her  nephew.  She  afterward  went  to  Princeton,  ac- 
companied by  Dr.  Lawrence.  She  spent  eight 
weeks  there,  and  enjoyed  the  mountain  air  and 
scenery  with  something  of  her  old  delight.  She 
was  able  to  walk  a  mile  or  more,  and  took  a  solitary 
walk  in  the  morning,  which  she  greatly  enjoyed. 
Her  evening  walk  was  less  agreeable,  because  she 
was  then  exposed  to  the  eager  curiosity  of  sight- 
seers, who  constantly  pursued  her. 

Miss  Alcott  had  a  great  intellectual  pleasure  here 
in  the  society  of  Mr.  James  Murdock  and  his  family. 
The  distinguished  elocutionist  took  great  pains  to 
gratify  her  taste  for  dramatic  reading  by  selecting 
her  favorite  scenes  for  representation,  and  she  even 
attended  one  of  his  public  readings  given  in  the 
hall  of  the  hotel.  The  old  pain  in  her  limbs  from 
which  she  suffered  during  her  European  journey 
again  troubled  her,  and  she  returned  to  Dr.  Law- 
rence's home  in  the  autumn,  where  she  was  ten- 
derly cared  for. 

Miss  Alcott  was  still  continually  planning  stories. 
Dr.  Lawrence  read  to  her  a  great  deal,  and  the  read- 
ing often  suggested  subjects  to  her.  She  thought  of 
a  series  to  be  called  "  Stories  of  All  Nations,"  and 
had  already  written  "  Trudel's  Siege,"  which  was 
published  in  "  St.  Nicholas,"  April,  1888,  the  scene 
of  which  was  laid  at  the  siege  of  Leyden.  The 
English  story  was  to  be  called  "  Madge  Wildfire," 
and  she  had  thought  of  plots  for  others.  She  could 
write  very  little,  and  kept  herself  occupied  and 
amused  with  fancy  work,  making  flowers  and  pen- 
wipers of  various  colors,  in  the  form  of  pinks,  to 
send  to  her  friends. 

Last  Years.  369 

On  her  last  birthday  Louisa  received  a  great  many 
flowers  and  pleasant  remembrances,  which  touched 
her  deeply,  and  she  said,  "  I  did  not  mean  to  cry 
to-day,  but  I  can't  help  it,  everybody  is  so  good." 
She  went  in  to  see  her  father  every  few  days,  and 
was  conscious  that  he  was  drawing  toward  the  end. 

While  riding  with  her  friend,  Louisa  would  tell 
her  of  the  stones  she  had  planned,  one  of  which 
was  to  be  called  "  The  Philosopher's  Wooing," 
referring  to  Thoreau.  She  also  had  a  musical 
novel  in  her  mind.  She  could  not  be  idle,  and 
having  a  respect  for  sewing,  she  busied  herself 
with  it,  making  garments  for  poor  children,  or  help- 
ing the  Doctor  in  her  \vork.  She  insisted  upon 
setting  up  a  work-basket  for  the  Doctor,  amply 
supplied  with  necessary  materials,  and  was  pleased 
when  she  saw  them  used.  A  flannel  garment  for  a 
poor  child  was  the  last  work  of  her  hands.  Her 
health  improved  in  February,  especially  in  the 
comfort  of  her  nights,  as  the  baths  she  took 
brought  her  the  long-desired  sleep.  "  Nothing 
so  good  as  sleep,"  she  said.  But  a  little  too  much 
excitement  brought  on  violent  headaches. 

During  these  months  Miss  Alcott  wrote  part  of 
the  "  Garland  for  Girls,"  one  of  the  most  fanciful 
and  pleasing  of  her  books.  These  stories  were  sug- 
gested by  the  flowers  sent  to  her  by  different 
friends,  which  she  fully  enjoyed.  She  rode  a 
great  deal,  but  did  not  see  any  one. 

Her  friends  were  much  encouraged ;  and  al- 
though they  dared  not  expect  full  recovery,  they 
hoped  that  she  might  be  "  a  comfortable  invalid, 
able  to  enjoy  life,  and  give  help  and  pleasure  to 


Louisa  May  Alcott. 

others."  She  did  not  suffer  great  pain,  but  she 
was  very  weak ;  her  nervous  system  seemed  to 
be  utterly  prostrated  by  the  years  of  work  and 
struggle  through  which  she  had  passed.  She  said, 
"  I  don't  want  to  live  if  I  can't  be  of  use."  She 
had  always  met  the  thought  of  death  bravely ;  and 
even  the  separation  from  her  dearest  friends  was 
serenely  borne.  She  believed  in  their  continued 
presence  and  influence,  and  felt  that  the  parting 
was  for  a  little  time.  She  had  no  fear  of  God,  and 
no  doubt  of  the  future.  Her  only  sadness  was  in 
leaving  the  friends  whom  she  loved  and  who  might 
yet  need  her. 

A  young  man  wrote  asking  Miss  Alcott  if  she 
would  advise  him  to  devote  himself  to  authorship ; 
she  answered,  "  Not  if  you  can  do  anything  else. 
Even  dig  ditches."  He  followed  her  advice,  and 
took  a  situation  where  he  could  support  himself, 
but  he  still  continued  to  write  stories.  A  little 
boy  sent  twenty-five  cents  to  buy  her  books.  She 
returned  the  money,  telling  him  it  was  not  enough 
to  buy  books,  but  sent  him  "  Little  Men."  Scores 
of  letters  remained  unanswered  for  want  of  strength 
to  write  or  even  to  read. 

Early  in  March  Mr.  Alcott  failed  very  rapidly. 
Louisa  drove  in  to  see  him,  and  was  conscious  that 
it  was  for  the  last  time.  Tempted  by  the  warm 
spring-like  day,  she  had  made  some  change  in 
her  dress,  and  absorbed  in  the  thought  of  the  part- 
ing, when  she  got  into  the  carriage  she  forgot  to 
put  on  the  warm  fur  cloak  she  had  worn. 

The  next  morning  she  complained  of  violent 
pain  in  her  head,  amounting  to  agony.  The  physi- 

Last  Years.  371 

clan  who  had  attended  her  for  the  last  weeks  was 
called.  He  felt  that  the  situation  was  very  serious. 
She  herself  asked,  "  Is  it  not  meningitis?'  The 
trouble  on  the  brain  increased  rapidly.  She  recog- 
nized her  dear  young  nephew  for  a  moment  and 
her  friendly  hostess,  but  was  unconscious  of  every- 
thing else.  So,  at  3.30  P.  M.,  March  6,  1888,  she 
passed  quietly  on  to  the  rest  which  she  so  much 
needed.  She  did  not  know  tbat  her  father  had  al- 
ready preceded  her. 

The  friends  of  the  family  who  gathered  to  "pay 
their  last  tribute  of  respect  and  love  to  the  aged 
father  were  met  at  the  threshold  by  the  startling 
intelligence,  "  Louisa  Alcott  is  dead,"  and  a  deeper 
sadness  fell  upon  every  heart.  The  old  patriarch 
had  gone  to  his  rest  in  the  fulness  of  time,  "  corn 
ripe  for  the  sickle,"  but  few  realized  how  entirely 
his  daughter  had  worn  out  her  earthly  frame.  Her 
friends  had  hoped  for  renewed  health  and  strength, 
and  for  even  greater  and  nobler  work  from  her  with 
her  ripened  powers  and  greater  ease  and  leisure. 

Miss  Alcott  had  made  every  arrangement  for  her 
death  ;  and  by  her  own  wish  the  funeral  service  was 
very  simple,  in  her  father's  rooms  at  Louisburg 
Square,  and  attended  only  by  a  few  of  her  family 
and  nearest  friends.  They  read  her  exquisite  poem 
to  her  mother,  her  father's  noble  tribute  to  her,  and 
spoke  of  the  earnestness  and  truth  of  her  life.  She 
was  remembered  as  she  would  have  wished  to  be. 
Her  body  was  carried  to  Concord  and  placed  in 
the  beautiful  cemetery  of  Sleepy  Hollow  where 
her  dearest  ones  were  already  laid  to  rest.  "  Her 
boys  "  went  beside  her  as  "  a  guard  of  honor,"  and 

372  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

stood  around  as  she  was  placed  across  the  feet  of 
father,  mother,  and  sister,  that  she  might  "  take 
care  of  them  as  she  had  done  all  her  life." 

Of  the  silent  grief  of  the  bereaved  family  I  will 
not  speak,  but  the  sound  of  mourning  filled  all  the 
land,  and  was  re-echoed  from  foreign  shores.  The 
children  everywhere  had  lost  their  friend.  Miss 
Alcott  had  entered  into  their  hearts  and  revealed 
them  to  themselves.  In  her  childish  journal  her 
oldest  sister  said,  "  I  have  not  a  secret  from  Louisa; 
I  tell  her  everything,  and  am  not  afraid  she  will 
think  me  silly."  It  was  this  respect  for  the  thought 
and  life  of  children  that  gave  Louisa  Alcott  her 
great  power  of  winning  their  respect  and  affection. 
Nothing  which  was  real  and  earnest  to  them  seemed 


unimportant  to  her. 


To  Mr.  Niles. 

SUNDAY,  1886. 

DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  The  goodly  supply  of  books  was 
most  welcome  ;  for  when  my  two  hours  pen- work  are  over 
I  need  something  to  comfort  me,  and  I  long  to  go  on 
and  finish  "Jo's  Boys  "  by  July  ist. 

My  doctor  frowns  on  that  hope,  and  is  so  sure  it  will 
do  mischief  to  get  up  the  steam  that  I  am  afraid  to  try, 
and  keep  Prudence  sitting  on  the  valve  lest  the  old  en- 
gine run  away  and  have  another  smash-up. 

I  send  you  by  Fred  several  chapters,  I  wish  they  were 
neater,  as  some  were  written  long  ago  and  have  knocked 

Last  Years.  373 

about  for  years ;  but  I  can't  spare  time  to  copy,  so  hope 
the  printers  won't  be  in  despair. 

I  planned  twenty  chapters  and  am  on  the  fifteenth. 
Some  are  long,  some  short,  and  as  we  are  pressed  for 
time  we  had  better  not  try  to  do  too  much. 

...  I  have  little  doubt  it  will  be  done  early  in  July, 
but  things  are  so  contrary  with  me  I  can  never  be  sure  of 
carrying  out  a  plan,  and  I  don't  want  to  fail  again  ;  so  far 
I  feel  as  if  I  could,  without  harm,  finish  off  these  dreadful 

Why  have  any  illustrations?  The  book  is  not  a  child's 
book,  as  the  lads  are  nearly  all  over  twenty,  and  pretty 
pictures  are  not  needed.  Have  the  bas-relief  if  you  like, 
or  one  good  thing  for  frontispiece. 

I  can  have  twenty-one  chapters  and  make  it  the  size 
of  "  Little  Men."  Sixteen  chapters  make  two  hundred 
and  sixteen  pages,  and  I  may  add  a  page  here  and  there 
later,  —  or  if  need  be,  a  chapter  somewhere  to  fill  up. 

I  shall  be  at  home  in  a  week  or  two,  much  better  for 
the  rest  and  fine  air ;  and  during  my  quiet  days  in  C. 
I  can  touch  up  proofs  and  confer  about  the  book.  Sha'n't 
we  be  glad  when  it  is  done  ? 

Yours  truly, 

L.  M.  A. 

To  Mrs.  Dodge. 

JUNE  29. 

DEAR  MRS.  DODGE,  —  I  will  evolve  something  for  De- 
cember (D.  V.)  and  let  you  have  it  as  soon  as  it  is  done. 

Lu  and  I  go  to  Nonquit  next  week ;  and  after  a  few 
days  of  rest,  I  will  fire  up  the  old  engine  and  see  if  it  will 
run  a  short  distance  without  a  break-down. 

There  are  usually  about  forty  young  people  at  N.,  and 
I  think  I  can  get  a  hint  from  some  of  them. 

3/4  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Had  a  call  from  Mr.  Burroughs  and  Mr.  Gilder  last 
eve.  Mr.  G.  asked  if  you  were  in  B.,  but  I  did  n't 

Father  remains  comfortable  and  happy  among  his 
books.  Our  lads  are  making  their  first  visit  to  New  York, 
and  may  call  on  "St.  Nick,"  whom  they  have  made  their 
patron  saint. 

I  should  like  to  own  the  last  two  bound  volumes  of 
"St.  Nicholas,"  for  Lulu.  She  adores  the  others,  and 
they  are  nearly  worn  out  with  her  loving  but  careless 
luggings  up  and  down  for  "  more  towries,  Aunt  Wee- wee." 
Charge  to 

Yours  affectionately, 

L.  M.  A. 

P.  S.  —  Was  n't  I  glad  to  see  you  in  my  howling  wil- 
derness of  wearisome  domestic  worrits  !  Come  again. 

CONCORD,  August  15. 

DEAR  MRS.  DODGE,  —  I  like  the  idea  of  "  Spinning- 
Wheel  Stories,"  and  can  do  several  for  a  series  which 
can  come  out  in  a  book  later.  Old-time  tales,  with  a 
thread  running  through  all  from  the  wheel  that  enters  in 
the  first  one. 

A  Christmas  party  of  children  might  be  at  an  old 
farm-house  and  hunt  up  the  wheel,  and  grandma  spins  and 
tells  the  first  story ;  and  being  snow-bound,  others  amuse 
the  young  folks  each  evening  with  more  tales.  Would 
that  do?  The  mother  and  child  picture  would  come  in 
nicely  for  the  first  tale,  —  "  Grandma  and  her  Mother." 

Being  at  home  and  quiet  for  a  week  or  so  (as  Father 
is  nicely  and  has  a  capable  nurse),  I  have  begun  the 
serial,  and  done  two  chapters ;  but  the  spinning-tales 
come  tumbling  into  my  mind  so  fast  I  'd  better  pin  a 
few  while  "  genius  burns."  Perhaps  you  would  like  to 

Last  Years.  375 

start  the  set  Christmas.  The  picture  being  ready  and 
the  first  story  can  be  done  in  a  week,  "  Sophie's  Secret ' 
can  come  later.  Let  me  know  if  you  would  like  that, 
and  about  how  many  pages  of  the  paper  "  S.  S."  was 
written  on  you  think  would  make  the  required  length  of 
tale  (or  tail?).  If  you  don't  want  No.  i  yet,  I  will  take 
my  time  and  do  several. 

The  serial  was  to  be  "  Mrs.  Gay's  Summer  School," 
and  have  some  city  girls  and  boys  go  to  an  old  farm- 
house, and  for  fun  dress  and  live  as  in  old  times,  and 
learn  the  good,  thrifty  old  ways,  with  adventures  and  fun 
thrown  in.  That  might  come  in  the  spring,  as  it  takes 
me  longer  to  grind  out  yarns  now  than  of  old. 

Glad  you  are  better.  Thanks  for  kind  wishes  for  the 
little  house ;  come  and  see  it,  and  gladden  the  eyes  of 
forty  young  admirers  by  a  sight  of  M.  M.  D.  next  year. 

Yours  affectionately, 

L.  M.  A. 


DEAR  MRS.  DODGE,  —  A  little  cousin,  thirteen  years 
old,  has  written  a  story  and  longs  to  see  it  in  print.  It  is 
a  well-written  bit  and  pretty  good  for  a  beginner,  so  I 
send  it  to  you  hoping  it  may  find  a  place  in  the  children's 
corner.  She  is  a  grandchild  of  S.  J.  May,  and  a  bright 
lass  who  paints  nicely  and  is  a  domestic  little  person  in 
spite  of  her  budding  accomplishments.  Good  luck  to 

I  hoped  to  have  had  a  Christmas  story  for  some  one, 
but  am  forbidden  to  write  for  six  months,  after  a  bad  turn 
of  vertigo.  So  I  give  it  up  and  take  warning.  All  good 
wishes  for  the  New  Year. 

From  yours  affectionately, 

L.  M.  ALCOTT. 

376  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

To  Mr.  Niles. 


DEAR  MR.  NILES,  —  Sorry  you  don't  like  the  bas-relief 
[of  herself]  ;  I  do.  A  portrait,  if  bright  and  comely, 
would  n't  be  me,  and  if  like  me  would  disappoint  the 
children ;  so  we  had  better  let  them  imagine  "  Aunt  Jo 
young  and  beautiful,  with  her  hair  in  two  tails  down  her 
back,"  as  the  little  girl  said. 

In  haste,  L.  M.  A. 

To  Mrs.  Bond. 

CONCORD,  Tuesday,  1886. 

DEAR  AUNTIE,  —  I  want  to  find  Auntie  Gwinn,  and 
don  't  know  whom  to  ask  but  you,  as  your  big  motherly 
heart  yearns  over  all  the  poor  babies,  and  can  tell  them 
where  to  go  when  the  nest  is  bare.  A  poor  little  woman 
has  just  died,  leaving  four  children  to  a  drunken  father. 
Two  hard-working  aunts  do  all  they  can,  and  one  will 
take  the  oldest  girl.  We  want  to  put  the  two  small  girls 
and  boy  into  a  home  till  we  can  see  what  comes  next. 
Lulu  clothes  one,  and  we  may  be  able  to  put  one  with  a 
cousin.  But  since  the  mother  died  last  Wednesday  they 
are  very  forlorn,  and  must  be  helped.  If  we  were  not 
so  full  I'd  take  one ;  but  Lu  is  all  we  can  manage 

There  is  a  home  at  Auburndale,  but  it  is  full ;  and  I 
know  of  no  other  but  good  Auntie  Gwinn's.  What  is  her 
address,  please?  I  shall  be  in  town  on  Saturday,  and 
can  go  and  see  her  if  I  know  where. 

Don't  let  it  be  a  bother ;  but  one  turns  at  once  in  such 
cases  to  the  saints  for  direction,  and  the  poor  aunts  don't 
known  what  to  do ;  so  this  aunt  comes  to  the  auntie 
of  all. 

Last  Years.  377 

I  had  a  pleasant  chat  with  the  Papa  in  the  cars,  and 
was  very  glad  to  hear  that  W.  is  better.  My  love  to 
both  and  S. 

Thanks  for  the  news  of  portraits.  I  '11  bear  them  in 
mind  if  G.  H.  calls.  Lulu  and  Anna  send  love,  and  I 

am  as  always, 


To  Mrs.  Dodge. 

APRIL  13,  1886. 

DEAR  MRS.  DODGE,  —  I  am  glad  you  are  going  to  have 
such  a  fine  outing.  May  it  be  a  very  happy  one. 

I  cannot  promise  anything,  but  hope  to  be  allowed  to 
write  a  little,  as  my  doctor  has  decided  that  it  is  as  well 
to  let  me  put  on  paper  the  tales  "  knocking  at  the  sauce- 
pan lid  and  demanding  to  be  taken  out '  (like  Mrs. 
Cratchit's  potatoes),  as  to  have  them  go  on  worrying  me 
inside.  So  I'm  scribbling  at  "Jo's  Boys,"  long  prom- 
ised to  Mr.  Niles  and  clamored  for  by  the  children.  I 
may  write  but  one  hour  a  day,  so  cannot  get  on  very  fast ; 
but  if  it  is  ever  done,  I  can  think  of  a  serial  for  "  St. 
Nicholas."  I  began  one,  and  can  easily  start  it  for  '88, 
if  head  and  hand  allow.  I  will  simmer  on  it  this  summer, 
and  see  if  it  can  be  done.  Hope  so,  for  I  don't  want  to 
give  up  work  so  soon. 

I  have  read  "  Mrs.  Null,"  but  don't  like  it  very 
well,  —  too  slow  and  colorless  after  Tolstoi's  "  Anna 

I  met  Mr.  and  Mrs.  S.  at  Mrs.  A.'s  this  winter.  Mr. 
Stockton's  child-stories  I  like  very  much.  The  older 
ones  are  odd  but  artificial. 

Now,  good-by,  and  God  be  with  you,  dear  woman,  and 
bring  you  safely  home  to  us  all. 

Affectionately  yours,          L.  M.  ALCOTT. 

378  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

To  Mrs.  Bond. 
DUNREATH  PLACE,  ROXBURY,  March  15.  1887. 

DEAR  AUNTIE,  —  I  have  been  hoping  to  get  out  and 
see  you  all  winter,  but  have  been  so  ill  I  could  only  live 
on  hope  as  a  relish  to  my  gruel,  —  that  being  my  only 
food,  and  not  of  a  nature  to  give  me  strength.  Now  I 
am  beginning  to  live  a  little,  and  feel  less  like  a  sick 
oyster  at  low  tide.  The  spring  days  will  set  me  up  I 
trust,  and  my  first  pilgrimage  shall  be  to  you  ;  for  I  want 
you  to  see  how  prettily  my  May-flower  is  blossoming  into 
a  fine  off-shoot  of  the  old  plant. 

Lizzy  Wells  has  probably  told  you  our  news  of  Fred 
and  his  little  bride,  and  Anna  written  you  about  it  as 
only  a  proud  mamma  can. 

Father  is  very  comfortable,  but  says  sadly  as  he  looks 
up  from  his  paper,  "  Beecher  has  gone  now ;  all  go  but 
me."  Please  thank  Mr.  Bond  for  the  poems,  which  are 
interesting,  even  to  a  poor,  ignorant  worm  who  does 
not  know  Latin.  Mother  would  have  enjoyed  them 
very  much.  I  should  have  acknowledged  his  kindness 
sooner;  but  as  I  am  here  in  Roxbury  my  letters  are 
forwarded,  and  often  delayed. 

I  was  sorry  to  hear  that  you  were  poorly  again.  Is  n't 
it  hard  to  sit  serenely  in  one's  soul  when  one's  body  is  in 
a  dilapidated  state  ?  I  find  it  a  great  bore,  but  try  to  do 
it  patiently,  and  hope  to  see  the  why  by  and  by,  when 
this  mysterious  life  is  made  clear  to  me.  I  had  a  lovely 
dream  about  that,  and  want  to  tell  it  you  some  day. 

Love  to  all. 

Ever  yours,  L.  M.  A. 

Her  publisher  wished  to  issue  a  new  edition 
of  "  A  Modern  Mephistopheles,"  and  to  add  to  it 

Last  Years.  379 

her  story  "  A  Whisper  in  the  Dark,"  to  which  she 

MAY  6,  1887. 

DEAR  MR.  NILES.  —  This  is  about  what  I  want  to  say. 
You  may  be  able  to  amend  or  suggest  something.  I  only 
want  it  understood  that  the  highfalutin  style  was  for  a 
disguise,  though  the  story  had  another  purpose ;  for  I  'm 
not  ashamed  of  it,  and  like  it  better  than  "  Work  "  or 
"  Moods." 

Yours  in  haste,  L.  M.  A. 

P.  S.  —  Do  you  want  more  fairy  tales  ? 


"  A  Modern  Mephistopheles  "  was  written  among  the 
earlier  volumes  of  the  No  Name  Series,  when  the  chief 
idea  of  the  authors  was  to  puzzle  their  readers  by  dis- 
guising their  style  as  much  as  possible,  that  they  might 
enjoy  the  guessing  and  criticism  as  each  novel  appeared. 
This  book  was  very  successful  in  preserving  its  incognito  ; 
and  many  persons  still  insist  that  it  could  not  have  been 
written  by  the  author  of  "  Little  Women."  As  I  much  en- 
joyed trying  to  embody  a  shadow  of  my  favorite  poem  in 
a  story,  as  well  as  the  amusement  it  has  afforded  those  in 
the  secret  for  some  vears,  it  is  considered  well  to  add 

•  * 

this  volume  to  the  few  romances  which  are  offered,  not 
as  finished  work  by  any  means,  but  merely  attempts 
at  something  graver  than  magazine  stories  or  juvenile 


L.  M.  ALCOTT. 

SATURDAY  A.  M.,  May  7,  1887. 

DEAR  MR.  NILES, — Yours  just  come.  "A  Whisper'1 
is  rather  a  lurid  tale,  but  might  do  if  I  add  a  few  lines  to 

Fac-simile  cf  Preface  to  "  A  Modern 

"=>    -«»   0<2, 

***r      \_w" 

Fac-simile  of  Preface. 


-SL,,    3X. 

382  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

the  preface  of  "  Modern  Mephistopheles,"  saying  that 
this  is  put  in  to  fill  the  volume,  or  to  give  a  sample  of 
Jo  March's  necessity  stories,  which  many  girls  have  asked 
for.  Would  that  do  ? 

It  seems  to  me  that  it  would  be  better  to  wait  till  I 
can  add  a  new  novel,  and  then  get  out  the  set.  Mean- 
time let  "  Modem  Mephistopheles  ';i  go  alone,  with  my 
name,  as  a  summer  book  before  Irving  comes  [Irving  as 
Faust] . 

I  hope  to  do  "  A  Tragedy  of  To-day  "  this  summer, 
and  it  can  come  out  in  the  fall  or  next  spring,  with 
"  Modern  Mephistopheles,"  "  Work,"  and  "  Moods." 

A  spunky  new  one  would  make  the  old  ones  go. 
"  Hospital  Sketches"  is  not  cared  for  now,  and  is  filled 
up  with  other  tales  you  know.  .  .  . 

Can  that  plan  be  carried  out?  I  have  begun  my 
tragedy,  and  think  it  will  be  good ;  also  a  shorter  thing 
called  "  Anna :  An  Episode,"  in  which  I  do  up  Boston 
in  a  jolly  way,  with  a  nice  little  surprise  at  the  end.  It 
would  do  to  fill  up  "  Modern  Mephistopheles,"  as  it  is 
not  long,  unless  I  want  it  to  be. 

I  will  come  in  next  week  and  see  what  can  be 
done.  Yours  truly, 

L.  M.  A. 

To  Mrs.  Bond. 

SUNDAY,  Oct.  16,  [1887]. 

DEAR  AUNTIE,  —  As  you  and  I  belong  to  the  "  Shut- in 
Society,"  we  may  now  and  then  cheer  each  other  by  a 
line.  Your  note  and  verse  are  very  good  to  me  to-day, 
as  I  sit  trying  to  feel  all  right  in  spite  of  the  stiffness  that 
won't  walk,  the  rebel  stomach  that  won't  work,  and  the 
tired  head  that  won't  rest. 

My  verse  lately  has  been  from  the  little  poem  found 
under  a  good  soldier's  pillow  in  the  hospital. 

Last  Years.  383 

I  am  no  longer  eager,  bold,  and  strong,  — 

All  that  is  past  ; 
I  am  ready  not  to  do 

At  last  —  at  last. 
My  half-day's  work  is  done, 

And  this  is  all  my  part. 
I  give  a  patient  God 

My  patient  heart. 

The  learning  not  to  do  is  so  hard  after  being  the  hub 
to  the  family  wheel  so  long.  But  it  is  good  for  the  ener- 
getic ones  to  find  that  the  world  can  get  on  without  them, 
and  to  learn  to  be  still,  to  give  up,  and  wait  cheerfully. 

As  we  have  "  fell  into  poetry,"  as  Silas  Wegg  says,  I  add 
a  bit  of  my  own  j  for  since  you  are  Marmee  now,  I  feel 
that  you  won't  laugh  at  my  poor  attempts  any  more  than 
she  did,  even  when  I  burst  forth  at  the  ripe  age  of  eight. 

Love  to  all  the  dear  people,  and  light  to  the  kind  eyes 
that  have  made  sunshine  for  others  so  many  years. 

Always  your  Lu. 

To  Mrs.  Bond,  with  first  copy  of  " Lulu  s  Library" 

second  volume. 

OCTOBER,  1887. 

DEAR  AUNTIE,  —  I  always  gave  Mother  the  first  author's 
copy  of  a  new  book.  As  her  representative  on  earth, 
may  I  send  you,  with  my  love,  the  little  book  to  come 
out  in  November? 

The  tales  were  told  at  sixteen  to  May  and  her  play- 
mates ;  then  are  related  to  May's  daughter  at  five ;  and 
for  the  sake  of  these  two  you  may  care  to  have  them  for 
the  little  people. 

I  am  still  held  by  the  leg,  but  seem  to  gain  a  little, 
and  hope  to  be  up  by  and  by.  Slow  work,  but  part  of 

384  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

the  discipline  I  need,  doubtless ;  so  I  take  it  as  well  as 
I  can. 

You  and  I  won't  be  able  to  go  to  the  golden  wedding 
of  S.  J.  May.     I  have  been  alone  so  long  I  feel  as  if  I  'd 
like   to   see  any  one,  and  be  in  the  good  times  again. 
L.  W.  reports  you  as  "  nicely,  and  sweet  as  an  angel ; ' 
so  I  rejoice,  and  wish  I  could  say  the  same  of 

Your  loving  Lu. 

To  Mrs.  Dodge. 

DECEMBER  22,  1887. 

DEAR  MRS.  DODGE,  —  I  send  you  the  story  your  assist- 
ant editor  asked  for.  As  it  is  needed  at  once  I  do  not 
delay  to  copy  it,  for  I  can  only  write  an  hour  a  day  and 
do  very  little.  You  are  used  to  my  wild  manuscript,  and 
will  be  able  to  read  it.  I  meant  to  have  sent  the  Chinese 
tale,  but  this  was  nearly  done,  and  so  it  goes,  as  it  does 
not  matter  where  we  begin.  ...  I  hope  you  are  well, 
and  full  of  the  peace  which  work  well  done  gives  the 
happy  doer. 

I  mend  slowly,  but  surely,  and  my  good  Doctor  says 
my  best  work  is  yet  to  come ;  so  I  will  be  content  with 
health  if  I  can  get  it.  With  all  good  wishes, 

Yours  affectionately,  L.  M.  A. 

To  Mrs.  Bond. 

FEBRUARY  7  [1888]. 

DEAR  AUNTIE,  —  My  blessed  Anna  is  so  busy,  and  I 
can  do  so  little  to  help  her,  I  feel  as  if  I  might  take  upon 
me  the  pleasant  duty  of  writing  to  you. 

Father  is  better,  and  we  are  all  so  grateful,  for  just 
now  we  want  all  to  be  bright  for  our  boy. 

Last  Years.  385 

The  end  is  not  far  off,  but  Father  rallies  wonderfully 
from  each  feeble  spell,  and  keeps  serene  and  happy 
through  everything. 

I  don't  ask  to  keep  him  now  that  life  is  a  burden,  and 
am  glad  to  have  him  go  before  it  becomes  a  pain.  We 
shall  miss  the  dear  old  white  head  and  the  feeble  saint  so 
long  our  care ;  but  as  Anna  says,  "  He  will  be  with 
Mother."  So  we  shall  be  happy  in  the  hope  of  that 

Sunday  he  seemed  very  low,  and  I  was  allowed  to 
drive  in  and  say  "good-by."  He  knew  me  and  smiled, 
and  kissed  "Weedy,"  as  he  calls  me,  and  I  thought  the 
drowsiness  and  difficulty  of  breathing  could  not  last  long. 
But  he  revived,  got  up,  and  seemed  so  much  as  usual,  I 
may  be  able  to  see  him  again.  It  is  a  great  grief  that 
I  am  not  there  as  I  was  with  Lizzie  and  Mother,  but 
though  much  better,  the  shattered  nerves  won't  bear 
much  yet,  and  quiet  is  my  only  cure. 

I  sit  alone  and  bless  the  little  pair  like  a  fond  old 
grandmother.  You  show  me  how  to  do  it.  With  love 
to  all, 

Yours  ever,  Lu. 

Her  last  note.     To  Mrs.  Bond. 

FEBRUARY  8,  1888. 
Air,  —  "  Haste  to  the  Wedding." 

DEAR  AUNTIE,  -  - 1  little  knew  what  a  sweet  surprise 
was  in  store  for  me  when  I  wrote  to  you  yesterday. 

As  I  awoke  this  morning  my  good  Doctor  L.  came 
in  with  the  lovely  azalea,  her  round  face  beaming  through 
the  leaves  like  a  full  moon. 

It  was  very  dear  of  you  to  remember  me,  and  cheer 
up  my  lonely  day  with  such  a  beautiful  guest. 


386  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

It  stands  beside  me  on  Marmee's  work-table,  and  re- 
minds me  tenderly  of  her  favorite  flowers ;  and  among 
those  used  at  her  funeral  was  a  spray  of  this,  which  lasted 
for  two  weeks  afterward,  opening  bud  after  bud  in  the 
glass  on  her  table,  where  lay  the  dear  old  "Jos.  May" 
hymn  book,  and  her  diary  with  the  pen  shut  in  as  she  left 
it  when  she  last  wrote  there,  three  days  before  the  end, 
"The  twilight  is  closing  about  me,  and  I  am  going  to 
rest  in  the  arms  of  my  children." 

So  you  see  I  love  the  delicate  flower,  and  enjoy  it  very 

I  can  write  now,  and  soon  hope  to  come  out  and  see 
you  for  a  few  minutes,  as  I  drive  out  every  fine  day,  and 
go  to  kiss  my  people  once  a  week  for  fifteen  minutes. 

Slow  climbing,  but  I  don't  slip  back  ;  so  think  up  my 
mercies,  and  sing  cheerfully,  as  dear  Marmee  used  to  do, 
"  Thus  far  the  Lord  has  led  me  on  ! ' 

Your  loving  Lu. 




DEAR  Pilgrim,  waiting  patiently, 

The  long,  long  journey  nearly  done, 
Beside  the  sacred  stream  that  flows 

Clear  shining  in  the  western  sun; 
Look  backward  on  the  varied  road 

Your  steadfast  feet  have  trod, 
From  youth  to  age,  through  weal  and  woe, 

Climbing  forever  nearer  God. 

Mountain  and  valley  lie  behind ; 

The  slough  is  crossed,  the  wicket  passed; 
Doubt  and  despair,  sorrow  and  sin, 

Giant  and  fiend,  conquered  at  last. 
Neglect  is  changed  to  honor  now  ; 

The  heavy  cross  may  be  laid  down  ; 
The  white  head  wins  and  wears  at  length 

The  prophet's,  not  the  martyr's,  crown. 

Greatheart  and  Faithful  gone  before, 

Brave  Christiana,  Mercy  sweet, 
Are  Shining  Ones  who  stand  and  wait 

The  weary  wanderer  to  greet. 
Patience  and  Love  his  handmaids  are, 

And  till  time  brings  release, 
Christian  may  rest  in  that  bright  room 

Whose  windows  open  to  the  east. 

The  staff  set  by,  the  sandals  off, 

Still  pondering  the  precious  scroll, 
Serene  and  strong,  he  waits  the  call 

That  frees  and  wings  a  happy  soul. 
Then,  beautiful  as  when  it  lured 

The  boy's  aspiring  eyes, 
Before  the  pilgrim's  longing  sight 

Shall  the  Celestial  City  rise. 
November  29,  1885.  L.  M.  A. 

388  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

MISS  ALCOTT'S  appearance  was  striking 
and  impressive  rather  than  beautiful.  Her 
figure  was  tall  and  well-proportioned,  indicating 
strength  and  activity,  and  she  walked  with  free- 
dom and  majesty.  Her  head  was  large,  and  her 
rich  brown  hair  was  long  and  luxuriant,  giving  a 
sense  of  fulness  and  richness  of  life  to  her  massive 
features.  While  thoroughly  unconventional,  and 
even  free  and  easy  in  her  manner,  she  had  a  dig- 
nity of  deportment  which  prevented  undue  lib- 
erties, and  made  intruders  stand  in  awe  of  her. 
Generous  in  the  extreme  in  serving  others,  she 
knew  her  own  rights,  and  did  not  allow  them  to 
be  trampled  on.  She  repelled  "  the  spurns  that 
patient  merit  of  the  unworthy  takes,"  and  had 
much  of  the  Burns  spirit  that  sings  "  A  man 's 
a  man  for  a'  that"  in  the  presence  of  insolent 

Miss  Alcott  always  took  her  stand  not  for  herself, 
but  for  her  family,  her  class,  her  sex.  The  humblest 
writer  should  not  be  imposed  upon  in  her  person; 
every  woman  should  be  braver  and  stronger  from 
her  attitude.  She  was  careless  of  outward  distinc- 
tions ;  but  she  enjoyed  the  attentions  which  her 
fame  brought  her  with  simple  pleasure,  and  was 
delighted  to  meet  bright,  intelligent,  distinguished 
people,  who  added  to  her  stores  of  observation  and 
thought.  She  had  the  rare  good  fortune,  which  an 
heir  of  millions  might  envy,  of  living  all  her  life  in 
the  society  of  the  noblest  men  and  women.  The 
Emersons,  the  Thoreaus,  the  Hawthornes,  and  Miss 
Elizabeth  Peabody  were  the  constant  companions 
of  her  childhood  and  youth.  It  was  from  them 

Conclusion.  389 

that  her  standard  of  character  was  formed,  and  she 
could  never  enter  any  circle  higher  than  that  in 
which  she  had  breathed  freely  from  a  child.  She 
was  quite  capable  of  hero-worship,  but  her  heroes 
were  few. 

With  all  her  imagination  and  romance,  Miss 
Alcott  was  a  tremendous  destroyer  of  illusions; 
she  remorselessly  tore  them  away  from  herself, 
persisting  in  holding  a  lens  before  every  fault  and 
folly  of  her  own,  and  she  did  the  same  for  those 
she  loved  best.  Only  what  was  intrinsically  noble 
and  true  could  stand  the  searching  test  of  her 
intellectual  scrutiny  and  keen  perception  of  the 
incongruous  and  ridiculous. 

This  disposition  was  apparent  in  Louisa's  rela- 
tion to  her  father,  whom  she  did  not  always  fully 
understand.  Perhaps  he  had  a  perception  of  this 
when  he  wrote  — 

t . 

L     11C      VV1  ULC  ~ 

I  press  thee  to  my  heart,  as  Duty's  faithful  child." 

l-^     *-»     f-\  \    t    4-  4-   I     X"V  1*^  -W   T  »-V%    *-V    *~%    4-    K^    "¥    T          ^  ^   T  <    4-   l-^  l^    1    /-»  O    «*~V   S*l  f*  4*     I^*4-«»T  /"*  +   *~\    *" 

She  had  little  sympathy  with  his  speculative  fancy, 
and  saw  plainly  the  impracticability  of  his  schemes, 
and  did  not  hesitate  to  touch  with  light  and  kindly 
satire  his  little  peculiarities ;  yet  in  her  deepest 
heart  she  gave  him  not  only  affection,  but  deep 
reverence.  She  felt  the  nobility  and  grandeur  of 
his  mind  and  heart.  In  "  Little  Women  "  the  por- 
trait of  the  father  is  less  vivid  and  less  literal  than 
that  of  any  other  member  of  the  family,  and  is 
scarcely  recognizable ;  but  it  was  impossible  to 
make  the  student  and  idealist  a  part  of  the  family 
life  as  she  painted  it,  —  full  of  fun,  frolic,  and  ad- 
venture. In  the  second  part  she  has  taken  pains 

3QO  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

to  make  up  for  this  seeming  neglect,  and  pays  hom- 
age to  the  quiet  man  at  the  end  of  the  house, 
whose  influence  was  so  potent  and  so  sweet  over 
all  within  it. 

Mrs.  Alcott  was  a  rich  and  noble  nature,  full  of 
zeal  and  impulse,  daily  struggling  with  a  temper 
threatening  to  burst  out  into  fire,  ready  to  fight 
like  a  lioness  for  her  young,  or  to  toil  for  them  till 
Nature  broke  down  under  the  burden.  She  had 
a  rich  appreciation  of  heroism  and  beauty  in  all 
noble  living,  a  true  love  of  literature,  and  an  over- 
flowing sympathy  with  all  suffering  humanity,  but 
was  also  capable  of  righteous  indignation  and  with- 
ering contempt.  To  this  mother,  royal  in  her 
motherhood,  Louisa  was  bound  by  the  closest  ties 
of  filial  love  and  mutual  understanding.  She  early 
believed  herself  to  be  her  mother's  favorite  child, 
knew  she  was  close  to  her  heart,  her  every  struggle 
watched,  her  every  fault  rebuked,  every  aspiration 
encouraged,  every  effort  after  good  recognized.  I 
think  Louisa  felt  no  pride  in  this  preference.  She 
knew  that  she  was  dear  to  her  mother,  because 
her  stormy,  wayward  heart  was  best  understood  by 
her ;  and  hence  the  mother,  wiser  for  her  child  than 
for  herself,  watched  her  unfolding  life  with  anxious 
care.  Throughout  the  childish  journal  this  relation 
is  evident:  the  child's  heart  lies  open  to  the  mother, 
and  the  mother  can  help  her  because  she  under- 
stands her,  and  holds  sacred  every  cry  of  her 

Such  a  loving  relation  to  a  mother  —  so  rich,  so 
full,  so  enduring  —  was  the  greatest  possible  bless- 
ing to  her  life.  And  richly  did  Louisa  repay  the 

Conclusion.  391 

care.  From  her  earliest  years  she  was  her  mother's 
confidante,  friend,  and  comforter.  Her  dream  of 
success  was  not  of  fame  and  glory,  but  of  the  time 
when  she  could  bring  this  weary  pilgrim  into  "  that 
chamber  whose  name  is  Peace,"  and  there  bid  her 
sit  with  folded  hands,  listening  to  the  loving  voices 
of  her  children,  and  drinking  in  the  fulness  of  life 
without  care  or  anxiety. 

And  it  all  came  true,  like  the  conclusion  of  a 
fairy  story ;  for  good  fairies  had  been  busy  at 
work  for  many  years  preparing  the  way.  Who 
that  saw  that  mother  resting  from  her  labors, 
proud  in  her  children's  success,  happy  in  her 
husband's  contentment,  and  in  the  love  that  had 
never  faltered  in  the  darkest  days,  can  ever  forget 
the  peace  of  her  countenance,  the  loving  joy  of 
her  heart  ? 

The  relation  of  Miss  Alcott  to  her  older  sister 
was  of  entire  trust  and  confidence.  Anna  inher- 
ited the  serene,  unexacting  temper  of  her  father, 
with  much  of  the  loving  warmth  of  her  mother. 
She  loved  to  hide  behind  her  gifted  sister,  and 
to  keep  the  ingle-side  warm  for  her  to  retreat  to 
when  she  was  cold  and  weary.  Anna's  fine  intel- 
lectual powers  were  shown  more  in  the  appreci- 
ation of  others  than  in  the  expression  of  herself; 
her  dramatic  skill  and  her  lively  fancy,  combined 
with  her  affection  for  Louisa,  made  her  always 
ready  to  second  all  the  plans  for  entertainment  or 
benevolence.  She  appears  in  her  true  light  in  the 
sweet,  lovable  Meg  of  "Little  Women;'  and  if 
she  never  had  the  fame  and  pecuniary  success  of 
her  sister,  she  had  the  less  rare,  but  equally  satis- 

392  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

fying,  happiness  of  wifehood  and  motherhood. 
And  thus  she  repaid  to  Louisa  what  she  had  so 
generously  done  for  the  family,  by  giving  her  new 
objects  of  affection,  and  connecting  her  with  a 
younger  generation. 

Louisa  was  always  very  fond  of  boys,  and  the 
difference  of  nature  gave  her  an  insight  into  their 
trials  and  difficulties  without  giving  her  a  painful 
sense  of  her  own  hard  struggles.  In  her  nephews 
she  found  objects  for  all  her  wise  and  tender  care, 
which  they  repaid  with  devoted  affection.  When 
boys  became  men,  "  they  were  less  interesting  to 
her;  she  could  not  understand  them." 

Elizabeth  was  unlike  the  other  sisters.  Retiring 
in  disposition,  she  would  gladly  have  ever  lived  in 
the  privacy  of  home,  her  only  desire  being  for 
the  music  that  she  loved.  The  father's  ideality 
was  in  her  a  tender  religious  feeling ;  the  mother's 
passionate  impulse,  a  self-abnegating  affection. 
She  was  in  the  family  circle  what  she  is  in  the 
book,  —  a  strain  of  sweet,  sad  music  we  long  and 
love  to  hear,  and  yet  which  almost  breaks  the 
heart  with  its  forecasting  of  separation.  She  was 
very  dear  to  both  the  father  and  mother,  and  the 
picture  of  the  father  watching  all  night  by  the 
marble  remains  of  his  child  is  very  touching.  He 
might  well  say,  — 

"Ah,  me  !  life  is  not  life  deprived  of  thee." 

Of  the  youngest  of  all,  —  bright,  sparkling,  capri- 
cious May,-  -quick  in  temper,  quick  in  repentance, 
affectionate  and  generous,  but  full  of  her  own  plans, 
and  quite  inclined  to  have  the  world  go  on  accord- 

Conclusion.  393 

ing  to  her  fancies,  —  I  have  spoken  elsewhere. 
Less  profound  in  her  intellectual  and  religious 
nature  than  either  of  her  sisters,  she  was  like  a 
nymph  of  Nature,  full  of  friendly  sportiveness,  and 
disposed  to  live  out  her  owrn  life,  since  it  might 
be  only  a  brief  summer  day.  She  was  Anna's 
special  child,  and  Louisa  was  not  always  so  patient 
with  her  as  the  older  sister;  yet  how  well  Louisa 
understood  her  generous  nature  is  shown  by  the 
beautiful  sketch  she  has  made  of  her  in  "  Little 
Women."  She  was  called  the  lucky  one  of  the 
family,  and  she  reaped  the  benefit  of  her  generous 
sister's  labors  in  her  opportunities  of  education. 

Miss  Alcott's  literary  work  is  so  closely  inter- 
woven with  her  personal  life  that  it  needs  little 
separate  mention.  Literature  was  undoubtedly  her 
true  pursuit,  and  she  loved  and  honored  it.  That 
she  had  her  ambitious  longings  for  higher  forms 
of  art  than  the  pleasant  stories  for  children  is  evi- 
dent from  her  journals,  and  she  twice  attempted 
to  paint  the  life  of  mature  men  and  women  strug- 
gling with  great  difficulties.  In  "Moods'  and 
"  A  Modern  Mephistopheles  '  we  have  proof  of 
her  interest  in  difficult  subjects.  I  have  spoken 
of  them  in  connection  with  her  life  ;  but  while 
they  evince  great  power,  and  if  standing  alone 
would  have  stamped  her  as  an  author  of  original 
observation  and  keen  thought,  they  can  hardly  be 
considered  as  thoroughly  successful,  and  certainly 
have  not  won  the  sanction  of  the  public  like  "  Hos- 
pital Sketches  "  and  "  Little  Women."  Could  she 
ever  have  commanded  quiet  leisure,  with  a  toler- 
able degree  of  health,  she  might  have  wrought  her 

394  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

fancies  into  a  finer  fabric,  and  achieved  the  success 
she  aimed  at. 

Much  as  Miss  Alcott  loved  literature,  it  was  not 
an  end  in  itself  to  her,  but  a  means.  Her  heart  was 
so  bound  up  in  her  family,  —  she  felt  it  so  fully  to 
be  her  sacred  mission  to  provide  for  their  wants, 
-that  she  sacrificed  to  it  all  ambitious  dreams, 
health,  leisure,  —  everything  but  her  integrity  of 
soul.  But  as  "  he  that  loseth  his  life  shall  find  it," 
she  has  undoubtedly  achieved  a  really  greater  work 
than  if  she  had  not  had  this  constant  stimulus  to 
exertion.  In  her  own  line  of  work  she  is  unsur- 
passed. While  she  paints  in  broad,  free  strokes 
the  life  of  her  own  day,  represented  mostly  by 
children  and  young  people,  she  has  always  a 
high  moral  purpose,  which  gives  strength  and 
sweetness  to  the  delineation ;  yet  one  never  hears 
children  complain  of  her  moralizing,  —  it  is  events 
that  reveal  the  lesson  she  would  enforce.  Her 
own  deep  nature  shines  through  all  the  expe- 
riences of  her  characters,  and  impresses  upon 
the  children's  hearts  a  sense  of  reality  and  truth. 
She  charms  them,  wisely,  to  love  the  common 
virtues  of  truth,  unselfishness,  kindness,  industry, 
and  honesty.  Dr.  Johnson  said  children  did  not 
want  to  hear  about  themselves,  but  about  giants 
and  fairies  ;  but  while  Miss  Alcott  could  weave 
fairy  fancies  for  them,  they  are  quite  as  pleased 
with  her  real  boys  and  girls  in  the  plainest  of 

An  especial  merit  of  these  books  for  young  boys 
and  girls  is  their  purity  of  feeling.  The  family 
affection  which  was  so  predominant  in  the  author's 

Conclusion.  395 

own  life,  always  appears  as  the  holiest  and  sweetest 
phase  of  human  nature.  She  does  not  refuse  to 
paint  the  innocent  love  and  the  happy  marriage 
which  it  is  natural  for  every  young  heart  to  be  in- 
terested in,  but  it  is  in  tender,  modest  colors.  She 
does  not  make  it  the  master. and  tyrant  of  the  soul, 
nor  does  she  ever  connect  it  with  sensual  imagery ; 
but  it  appears  as  one  of  4<  God's  holy  ordinances," 

-  natural  and  beautiful,  —  and  is  not  separated 
from  the  thought  of  work  and  duty  and  self- 
sacrifice  for  others.  No  mother  fears  that  her 
books  will  brush  the  bloom  of  modesty  from  the 
faces  of  her  young  men  or  maidens. 

Even  in  the  stories  of  her  early  period  of  work 
for  money,  which  she  wisely  renounced  as  trash, 
while  there  is  much  that  is  thoroughly  worthless  as 
art,  and  little  that  has  any  value,  Miss  Alcott  never 
falls  into  grossness  of  thought  or  baseness  of  feeling. 
She  is  sentimental,  melodramatic,  exaggerated,  and 
unreal  in  her  descriptions,  but  the  stories  leave  no 
taint  of  evil  behind  them.  Two  of  these  stories, 
"The  Baron's  Gloves'  and  "A  Whisper  in  the 
Dark,"  have  been  included  in  her  published  works, 
with  her  permission.  Her  friends  are  disposed  to 
regret  this,  as  they  do  not  add  to  her  reputation ; 
but  at  least  they  serve  to  show  the  quality  of  work 
which  she  condemned  so  severely,  and  to  satisfy 
the  curiosity  of  readers  in  regard  to  it.  It  would 
be  easy  to  point  out  defects  in  her  style,  and  in 
some  of  her  books  there  is  evidence  of  the  enforced 
drudgery  of  production,  instead  of  the  spontaneous 
flow  of  thought.  The  most  serious  defect  is  in 
her  style  of  expression,  which  certainly  passes  the 

396  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

fine  line  between  colloquial  ease  and  slangy  it 
is  her  own  natural,  peculiar  style,  which  appears 
in  her  journals  and  letters.  That  it  is  attractive  to 
children  is  certain,  but  it  offends  the  taste  of  those 
who  love  purity  and  elegance  of  speech.  It  does 
not  appear  in  Louisa's  more  ambitious  novels  ;  here 
she  sometimes  falls  into  the  opposite  extreme  of 
labored  and  stilted  expression.  But  much  of  these 
books  is  written  in  a  pure  and  beautiful  style,  show- 
ing that  she  could  have  united  ease  with  elegance 
if  she  had  not  so  constantly  worked  at  high  speed 
and  with  little  revision.  She  was  a  great  admirer 
of  Dickens's  writings ;  and  although  she  has  never 
imitated  him,  she  was  perhaps  strengthened  in 
her  habit  of  using  dashing,  expressive  language  by 
so  fascinating  a  model. 

I  have  placed  at  the  head  of  each  chapter  one 
of  Miss  Alcott's  own  poems,  usually  written  at  the 
period  of  which  the  chapter  treats,  and  characteristic 
of  her  life  at  that  time.  Her  first  literary  essay  was 
the  "  Little  Robin."  But  although  her  fond  mother 
saw  the  future  of  a  great  poet  in  these  simple  verses, 
Louisa  never  claimed  the  title  for  herself.  Her 
thoughts  ran  often  into  rhyme,  and  she  sent  many 
birthday  and  Christmas  verses  to  her  friends  and 
especially  to  her  father.  They  are  usually  playful. 
She  always  wrote  to  express  some  feeling  of  the 
hour,  and  I  find  no  objective  or  descriptive  poetry. 
But  a  few  of  her  sacred  poems,  for  we  may  cer- 
tainly call  them  so,  are  very  tender  and  beautiful, 
and  deserve  a  permanent  place  among  the  poems 
of  feeling, — those  few  poems  which  a  true  heart 
writes  for  itself.  "Thoreau's  Flute"  was  originally 

Conclusion.  397 

published  in  the  "  Atlantic  Monthly."  It  is  the 
least  personal  of  her  poems.  The  lines  to  her 
father  on  his  eighty-sixth  birthday,  the  verses 
dedicated  to  her  mother,  and  "  My  Prayer,"  the 
last  poem  that  she  wrote,  breathe  her  deepest 
religious  feeling  in  sweet  and  fitting  strains.  They 
will  speak  to  the  hearts  of  many  in  the  hours 
of  trial  which  are  common  to  humanity.  The 
long  playful  poem  called  "  The  Lay  of  the  Golden 
Goose "  was  sent  home  from  Europe  as  an  an- 
swer to  many  questions  from  her  admirers  and 
demands  for  new  stories.  It  has  never  been  pub- 
lished, and  is  an  interesting  specimen  of  her  playful 

While  to  Miss  Alcott  cannot  be  accorded  a  high 
rank  as  a  poet,  —  which,  indeed,  she  never  claimed 
for  herself,-  -it  would  be  hard  to  deny  a  place  in 
our  most  select  anthology  to  "Thoreau's  Flute"  or 
"  Transfiguration,"  the  "Lines  to  my  Father  on  his 
Eighty-sixth  Birthday"  and  "  My  Prayer."  I  have 
therefore  thought  it  well  to  preserve  her  best  poems 
in  connection  with  her  life,  where  they  properly 
belong ;  for  they  are  all  truly  autobiographical,  re- 
vealing the  inner  meaning  of  her  life. 

The  pecuniary  success  of  Miss  Alcott's  books 
enabled  her  to  carry  out  her  great  purpose  of  pro- 
viding for  the  comfort  and  happiness  of  her  family. 
After  the  publication  of  "  Little  Women,"  she  not 
only  received  a  handsome  sum  for  every  new  story, 
but  there  was  a  steady  income  from  the  old  ones. 
Her  American  publishers  estimate  that  they  "  have 
sold  of  her  various  works  a  million  volumes,  and 
that  she  realized  from  them  more  than  two  hun- 

398  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

dred  thousand  dollars."  While  her  own  tastes 
were  very  simple,  her  expenses  were  large,  for  she 
longed  to  gratify  every  wish  of  those  she  loved,  and 
she  gave  generously  to  every  one  in  need.  She 
had  a  true  sense  of  the  value  of  money.  Her  early 
poverty  did  not  make  her  close  in  expending  it, 
nor  her  later  success  lavish.  She  never  was  en- 
slaved by  debt  or  corrupted  by  wealth.  She  al- 
ways held  herself  superior  to  her  fortune,  and 
made  her  means  serve  her  highest  purposes. 
Of  Miss  Alcott's  own  reading  she  says :  — 

"  Never  a  student,  but  a  great  reader.  R.  W.  E. 
gave  me  Goethe's  works  at  fifteen,  and  they  have  been 
my  delight  ever  since.  My  library  consists  of  Goethe, 
Emerson,  Shakespeare,  Carlyle,  Margaret  Fuller,  and 
George  Sand.  George  Eliot  I  don't  care  for,  nor  any  of 
the  modern  poets  but  Whittier ;  the  old  ones  —  Her- 
bert, Crashaw,  Keats,  Coleridge,  Dante,  and  a  few  oth- 
ers—  I  like." 

She  gives  this  account  of  the  beginning  of  her 
literary  career :  — 

"  This  gem  ['  The  Robin  ']  my  proud  mother  preserved 
with  care,  assuring  me  that  if  I  kept  on  in  this  way  I 
might  be  a  second  Shakespeare  in  time.  Fired  with  this 
modest  ambition,  I  continued  to  write  poems  upon  dead 
butterflies,  lost  kittens,  the  baby's  eyes,  and  other  simple 
subjects  till  the  story-telling  mania  set  in ;  and  after 
frightening  my  sisters  out  of  their  wits  by  awful  tales 
whispered  in  bed,  I  began  to  write  down  these  histories 
of  giants,  ogres,  dauntless  girls,  and  magic  transformations 
till  we  had  a  library  of  small  paper-covered  volumes  illus- 
trated by  the  author.  Later  the  poems  grew  gloomy  and 

Conclusion.  399 

sentimental,  and  the  tales  more  fanciful  and  less  tragic, 
lovely  elves  and  spirits  taking  the  places  of  the  former 

Of  her  method  of  work  she  says :  — 

"  I  never  had  a  study.  Any  pen  and  paper  do,  and  an 
old  atlas  on  my  knee  is  all  I  want.  Carry  a  dozen  plots 
in  my  head,  and  think  them  over  when  in  the  mood. 
Sometimes  keep  one  for  years,  and  suddenly  find  it  all 
ready  to  write.  Often  lie  awake  and  plan  whole  chapters 
word  for  word,  then  merely  scribble  them  down  as  if 

"  Used  to  sit  fourteen  hours  a  day  at  one  time,  eating 
little,  and  unable  to  stir  till  a  certain  amount  was 

"  Very  few  stories  written  in  Concord  ;  no  inspiration 
in  that  dull  place.  Go  to  Boston,  hire  a  quiet  room  and 
shut  myself  up  in  it." 

The  following  letter  gives  her  advice  to  young 
writers :  — 

To  Mr.  J.  P.  True. 

CONCORD,  October  24. 

DEAR  SIR,  —  I  never  copy  or  "  polish,"  so  I  have  no 
old  manuscripts  to  send  you ;  and  if  I  had  it  would  be  of 
little  use,  for  one  person's  method  is  no  rule  for  another. 
Each  must  work  in  his  own  way ;  and  the  only  drill  needed 
is  to  keep  writing  and  profit  by  criticism.  Mind  gram- 
mar, spelling,  and  punctuation,  use  short  words,  and  ex- 
press as  briefly  as  you  can  your  meaning.  Young  people 
use  too  many  adjectives  and  try  to  "  write  fine."  The 
strongest,  simplest  words  are  best,  and  no  foreign  ones 
if  it  can  be  helped. 

400  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Write,  and  print  if  you  can  ;  if  not,  still  write,  and  im- 
prove as  you  go  on.  Read  the  best  books,  and  they 
will  improve  your  style.  See  and  hear  good  speakers 
and  wise  people,  and  learn  of  them.  Work  for  twenty 
years,  and  then  you  may  some  day  find  that  you  have  a 
style  and  place  of  your  own,  and  can  command  good  pay 
for  the  same  things  no  one  would  take  when  you  were 

I  know  little  of  poetry,  as  I  never  read  modern  attempts, 
but  advise  any  young  person  to  keep  to  prose,  as  only 
once  in  a  century  is  there  a  true  poet ;  and  verses  are  so 
easy  to  do  that  it  is  not  much  help  to  write  them.  I 
have  so  many  letters  like  your  own  that  I  can  say  no 
more,  but  wish  you  success,  and  give  you  for  a  motto 
Michael  Angelo's  wise  words :  "  Genius  is  infinite 

Your  friend,  L.  M.  ALCOTT. 

P.  S.  —  The  lines  you  send  are  better  than  many  I 
see ;  but  boys  of  nineteen  cannot  know  much  about 
hearts,  and  had  better  write  of  things  they  understand. 
Sentiment  is  apt  to  become  sentimentality ;  and  sense  is 
always  safer,  as  well  as  better  drill,  for  young  fancies  and 

Read  Ralph  Waldo  Emerson,  and  see  what  good  prose 
is,  and  some  of  the  best  poetry  we  have.  I  much  prefer 
him  to  Longfellow. 

"  Years  afterward,"  says  Mr.  True,  "  when  I  had 
achieved  some  slight  success,  I  once  more  wrote, 
thanking  her  for  her  advice ;  and  the  following 
letter  shows  the  kindliness  of  heart  with  which  she 
extended  ready  recognition  and  encouragement 
to  lesser  workers  in  her  chosen  field:"  — 

Conclusion.  401 

CONCORD,  Sept.  7,  1883. 

MY  DEAR  MR.  TRUE,  —  Thanks  for  the  pretty  book, 
which  I  read  at  once  and  with  pleasure ;  for  I  still  enjoy 
boys'  pranks  as  much  as  ever. 

I  don't  remember  the  advice  I  gave  you,  and  should 
judge  from  this  your  first  story  that  you  did  not  need 
much.  Your  boys  are  real  boys ;  and  the  girls  can  run, 
—  which  is  a  rare  accomplishment  nowadays  I  find. 
They  are  not  sentimental  either ;  and  that  is  a  good  ex- 
ample to  set  both  your  brother  writers  and  the  lasses  who 
read  the  book. 

I  heartily  wish  you  success  in  your  chosen  work,  and 
shall  always  be  glad  to  know  how  fast  and  how  far  you 
climb  on  the  steep  road  that  leads  to  fame  and  fortune. 

Yours  truly, 

L.  M.  ALCOTT. 

Roberts  Brothers,  Miss  Alcott's  publishers  for 
nearly  twenty  years,  have  collected  all  her  stories 
in  a  uniform  edition  of  twenty- five  volumes.  They 
are  grouped  into  different  series  according  to  size 
and  character,  from  her  novels  to  "  Lulu's  Library  ' 
for  very  small  children,  and  may  be  enumerated  as 
follows :  — 

Novels  (four  volumes) .  —  Work,  Moods,  A  Modern 
Mephistopheles,  Hospital  Sketches. 

Little  Women  Series  (eight  volumes).  —  Little  Women, 
An  Old-Fashioned  Girl,  Little  Men,  Eight  Cousins,  Rose 
in  Bloom,  Under  the  Lilacs,  Jack  and  Jill,  Jo's  Boys. 

Spinning-  Wheel  Stories  Series  (four  volumes) .  —  Silver 
Pitchers,  Proverb  Stories,  Spinning- Wheel  Stories,  A  Gar- 
land for  Girls. 

Aunt  Jo's  Scrap-Bag  (six  volumes) .  —  My  Boys,  Shawl- 


402  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

Straps,  Cupid  and  Chow-Chow,  My  Girls,  Jimmy's  Cruise 
in  the  Pinafore,  An  Old-Fashioned  Thanksgiving. 
Lulu's  Library  (three  volumes). 

Many  of  these  stones  were  originally  published 
in  various  magazines,  —  the  popular  "  St.  Nicho- 
las," for  which  Miss  Alcott  wrote  some  of  her  best 
things  in  her  later  years,  the  "  Youth's  Compan- 
ion," and  others.  Her  works  have  been  repub- 
lished  in  England  ;  and  through  her  English 
publishers,  Messrs.  Sampson  Low  and  Company, 
of  London,  she  has  reaped  the  benefit  of  copyright 
there,  and  they  have  been  translated  into  many 
languages.  Her  name  is  familiar  and  dear  to  the 
children  of  Europe,  and  they  still  read  her  books 
with  the  same  eagerness  as  the  children  of  her 
own  land. 

This  extract  from  a  letter  written  by  the  trans- 
lator of  Miss  Alcott's  books  into  Dutch  will  show 
how  she  is  esteemed  in  Holland :  — 

"  Miss  Alcott  was  and  is  so  much  beloved  here  by  her 
books,  that  you  could  scarce  find  a  girl  that  had  not  read 
one  or  more  of  them.  Last  autumn  I  gave  a  translation  of 
'Lulu's  Library'  that  appeared  in  November,  1887; 
the  year  before,  a  collection  of  tales  and  Christmas  stories 
that  appeared  under  the  name  of  '  Gandsbloempje ' 
('Dandelion').  Yesterday  a  young  niece  of  mine  was 
here,  and  said,  '  Oh,  Aunt,  how  I  enjoyed  those  stories  ! 
but  the  former  of  "  Meh  Meh "  I  still  preferred.'  A 
friend  wrote  :  '  My  children  are  confined  to  the  sick- 
room, but  find  comfort  in  Alcott's  "Under  the  Lilacs."  ' 
Her  fame  here  was  chiefly  caused  by  her  '  Little  Women ' 

Conclusion.  403 

and  '  Little  Women  Wedded,'  which  in  Dutch  were  called 
'  Under  Moedervleugels  '  ('  Under  Mother's  Wings  ') 
and' Op  Eigen  Wieken '  ('With  Their  Own  Wings'). 
Her  '  Work '  was  translated  as  '  De  Hand  van  den 
Ploey'  ('The  Hand  on  the  Plough')." 

How  enduring  the  fame  of  Louisa  M.  Alcott  will 
be,  time  only  can  show;  but  if  to  endear  oneself 
to  two  generations  of  children,  and  to  mould  their 
minds  by  wise  counsel  in  attractive  form  entitle 
an  author  to  the  lasting  gratitude  of  her  country, 
that  praise  and  reward  belong  to  LOUISA  MAY 



It  is  time  to  be  old, 

To  take  in  sail : 

The  god  of  bounds, 

Who  sets  to  seas  a  shore, 

Came  to  me  in  his  fatal  rounds, 

And  said,  "  No  more  ! 

No  farther  shoot 

Thy  broad  ambitious  branches,  and  thy  root; 

Fancy  departs  :  no  more  invent, 

Contract  thy  firmament 

To  compass  of  a  tent. 

There  's  not  enough  for  this  and  that, 

Make  thy  option  which  of  two; 

Economize  the  failing  river, 

Not  the  less  revere  the  Giver ; 

Leave  the  many,  and  hold  the  few. 

Timely  wise,  accept  the  terms  ; 

Soften  the  fall  with  wary  foot : 

A  little  while 

Still  plan  and  smile, 

404  Louisa  May  Alcott. 

And,  fault  of  novel  germs, 
Mature  the  unfallen  fruit." 

•  •  •  •  •  •  • 


As  the  bird  trims  her  to  the  gale, 

I  trim  myself  to  the  storm  of  time  ; 

I  man  the  rudder,  reef  the  sail, 

Obey  the  voice  at  eve  obeyed  at  prime : 

Lowly  faithful,  banish  fear, 

Right  onward  drive  unharmed ; 

The  port,  well  worth  the  cruise,  is  near, 

And  every  wave  is  charmed. 


University  Press  :  John  \V  ilson  and  Son,  Cambridge. 


Miss  Alcolt  is  really  a  benefactor  of  households.  —  H.  H. 

Miss  Alcott  has  a  facility  of  entering  into  the  lives  and  feelings  of  children 
that  is  conspicuously  wanting  in  most  writers  who  address  them  ;  and  to  this 
cause,  to  the  consciousness  among  her  readers  that  they  are  hearing  about 
people  like  themselves,  instead  of  abstract  qualities  labelled  with  names,  the 
popularity  of  her  books  is  due.  —  MRS.  SARAH  J.  HALE. 

Dear  Aunt  Jo  !  You  are  embalmed  in  the  thoughts  and  loves  of  thou- 
sands of  little  men  and  -women.  —  EXCHANGE. 

Little  Women ;  or  Meg,  Jo, 
Beth,  and  Amy.  With  illustra- 
tions. i6mo 

Hospital  Sketches,  and  Camp 
and  Fireside  Stories.  With 
illustrations.  i6mo 

An  Old-Fashioned  Girl.  With 
illustrations.  i6mo 

Little  Men:  Life  at  Plumfield  with 
Jo's  Boys.  With  illustrations.  i6mo 

Jo's  Boys  and  How  they  Turned 
Out.  A  sequel  to  l>  Little  Men." 
With  portrait  of  "Aunt  Jo."  i6mo 

Eight  Cousins  ;  or,  The  Aunt-Hill. 
With  illustrations.  i6mo  . 

Rose  in  Bloom.  A  sequel  to 
"  Eight  Cousins."  i6mo  .  .  . 

Under  the  Lilacs.  With  illustra- 
tions. i6mo 

Jack  and  Jill.  A  Village  Story. 
With  illustrations.  i6mo  .  .  . 

Work :  A  Story  of  Experience. 
With  character  illustrations  by  Sol 
Eytinge.  i6mo 

Moods.  A  Novel.  New  edition, 
revised  and  enlarged.  i6mo  . 

A  Modern  Mephistopheles,  and 
A  Whisper  in  the  Dark.  i6mo 

Silver  Pitchers,  and  Indepen- 
dence. A  Centennial  Love  Story. 

Proverb  Stories.  New  edition,  re- 
vised and  enlarged.  i6mo  .  .  . 

Spinning-Wheel  Stories.  With 
illustrations.  i6mo 

A  Garland  for  Girls,  and  Other 
Stories.  With  illustrations.  i6mo 







My  Boys,  &c.  First  volume  of 
Aunt  Jo's  Scrap-Bag.  i6mo  .  $1.00 

Shawl-Straps.     Second  volume  of 

Aunt  Jo's  Scrap-Bag.     i6mo.        .      i.oo 

Cupid  and  Chow-Chow,  &c. 
Third  volume  of  Aunt  Jo's  Scrap- 
Bag.  i6mo i.oo 

My  Girls,  &c.     Fourth  volume  of 

Aunt  Jo's  Scrap-Bag.     i6mo  .     .      i.oo 

Jimmy's  Cruise  in  the  Pinafore, 
&c.  Fifth  volume  of  Aunt  Jo's 
Scrap-Bag.  i6mo i.oo 

An  Old-Fashioned  Thanksgiv- 
ing, &c.  Sixth  volume  of  Aunt 
Jo's  Scrap-Bag.  i6mo  ....  i.oo 

Little  Women.  Illustrated.  Em- 
bellished with  nearly  200  charac- 
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designs  drawn  expressly  for  this 
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Jill.  8  large  i6mo  volumes  in  a 
handsome  box 12.00 

Miss  Alcott's  novels  in  uniform  bind- 
ing in  sets.  Moods  ;  Work  Hos- 
pital Sketches  ;  A  Modern  Mephis- 
topheles, and  A  Whisper  in  the 
Dark.  4  volumes.  i6mo  .  .  6.00 

Lulu's  Library.  Vols.  I.,  II., 
III.  A  collection  of  New  Stories. 
i6mo i.oo 

These  books  are  for  sale  at  all  bookstores,  or  will  be  mailed,  post-paid,  on 
receipt  of  price,  to  any  address. 


Boston,  Mas*. 


'  Sing,  Tessa ;  sing  ! '-'  cried  Tommo,  twanging  away  with  all  his  might.  —  PAGE  47. 

AUNT  JO'S  SCRAP-BAG:  Containing  "My  Boys,' 
«  Shawl-Straps,"  «  Cupid  and  Chow-Chow,"  "  My  Girls,"  "  Jimmy'-. 
Cruise  in  the  Pinafore,"  "  An  Old-Fashioned  Thanksgiving."  6  vols. 
Price  of  each,  $1.00. 





SILVER    PITCHERS,  and  Other  Stories. 



A  GARLAND    FOR    GIRLS,  and  Other  Stories, 

4  volumes.     Cloth.     Price,  $1.25  each. 






With  Illustrations  by  JESSIE  MCDERMOTT. 
I6mo.    Cloth.    Price,  $1.00  per  volume. 






WORK.     A  Story  of  Experience.     With  Illustrations  by 

This  story  relates,  in  many  of  its  most  important  features  and 
incidents,  to  actual  experiences  of  its  author;  and  in  "Christie" 
we  find  the  views  and  ideas  of  Miss  Alcott  herself  expressed  in 
such  a  way  as  to  make  them  most  interesting  and  valuable. 

MOODS.    A  Novel. 

Although  this  story  was  originally  written  at  a  time  when  its 
author's  powers  and  years  were  far  from  fully  matured,  it  was  in 
its  first  form  indicative  of  great  power.  It  was  revised  and  partly 
rewritten  after  she  had  attained  a  full  maturity,  and  after  actual 
experience  with  life  had  broadened  and  rounded  out  her  mental 
vision,  so  that  it  now  stands  as  the  first-born  and  dearest  to  her 
heart  of  her  novels. 


This  story  was  written  for  the  "  No  Name  Series,"  in  which  it 
originally  appeared,  and  consequently  was  intended  to  be  disguised. 

It  is  a  surprisa  that  Miss  Alcott  could  have  written  this  volume  ;  not  that  it  is 
inferior,  but  that  it  varies  from  her  usual  tone  and  theme  so  much.  Yet  her  plot 
is  ingenious,  and  there  is  dramatic  design  well  worked  out.  As  we  read,  knowing 
now  who  the  author  is  (the  story  was  first  published  anonymously),  we  recognize 
the  grace  of  her  style  and  the  art  of  her  workmanship.  Its  tone  and,  above  all, 
its  lofty  moral  purpose  are  hers.  Plots  differ,  appearances  are  changed ;  but  some 
of  the  deep  traits  of  the  true  nature  of  Miss  Alcott  are  in  the  book.  Being  dead 
she  yet  liveth.  —  Public  Opinion. 

HOSPITAL  SKETCHES,  and  Camp  and  Fireside  Stories. 

With  Illustrations. 

These  stories  and  sketches  were  written  at  the  time  of  the  Civil 
War,  in  which  the  author  took  part  as  a  nurse  in  one  of  the  hospi- 
tals, and  show  some  of  the  many  minor  side  scenes  that  help  to 
make  up  that  great  conflict. 

Four  volumes.     i6mo.     Cloth.    $1.50  per  volume. 
Sold  everywhere.    Mailed,  post-paid,  on  receipt  of  price  by  the  publisher st 















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EOYS.     Price,  $1.50. 

ROBERTS   BROTHERS,  Publisher*. 



JO'S    BOYS,    AND   HOW   THEY    TURNED    OUT.      A 
sequel  to  "  Little  Men."     With  a  new  portrait  of  "  Aunt 
Jo."     Price,  $1,50. 

EGBERTS  BROTHERS,  Publishers,  Boston. 




This,  the  most  famous  Oi 
all  the  famous  books  by  Miss 
ALCOTT,  is  now  presented  in 
an  illustrated  edition,  with 

Nearly  Two  Hundred  Character- 
istic Designs, 

drawn  and  engraved  expressly 
for  this  work.  It  is  safe  to 
say  that  there  are  not  many 
homes  which  have  not  been 
made  happier  through  the 
healthy  influence  of  this  cele- 
brated book,  which  can  now 
be  had  in  a  fit  dress  for  the 
centre  table  of  the  domestic 

One   handsome    small   quarto 
vohime,  bound  in  cloth,  with  em- 
blematic   cover    designs.       Prict 


Publishers^  Boston* 

•f   .' 


H        *    •